Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Pandemonium
Lauren Oliver

HarperTeen
Released on February 28, 2012
384 pages
YA / Dystopian / Light Sci-Fi

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I’m pushing aside

the memory of my nightmare,

pushing aside thoughts of Alex,

pushing aside thoughts of Hana

and my old school,

push,

push,

push,

like Raven taught me to do.

The old life is dead.

But the old Lena is dead too.

I buried her.

I left her beyond a fence,

behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

Just as a side note: I do not understand this cover. It makes no sense and bothers me for some reason I've yet to figure out. Moving on...

This was the perfect read-at-an-outdoor-music-festival book. It wasn’t complicated, so plotlines were easy to follow despite only reading it in 20 minute chunks. It was pretty action packed, so it read very quickly and any rock band soundtrack fit pretty well. The characters were entertaining, but not so engrossing that I couldn’t put the book down. It was just overall an easy read and very convenient for on-again, off-again reading. Whether you think that’s a positive is really up to your own reading habits.

I found Delirium to be lacking a spark that would have made me an advocate for this odd little world without love. Lena was a little too indecisive and naïve while Alex was a little too conveniently crushable. That probably doesn’t make sense, but those are the words my head is coming up with – “too conveniently crushable”. Either way, it wasn’t until the very end were something surprised me and I really became engaged with the story. But, like with The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I was determined to stick with the series to see if it got better.

SPOILERS FOR DELIRIUM AHEAD

And it did. It truly did. Pandemonium is told through two timelines – the first being flashbacks to the months immediately following Lena’s escape from the walled city of Portland and her attempt to accept the death of Alex after he helped her escape, and the other being a “current” timeline now that Lena is firmly planted in the resistance and has been dispatched to New York City to help with the group’s missions. Even when she’s weak, near death and has no hope, you start to see a bit of backbone forming, a sign that I probably was going to like spending more time with Lena than I did in the first book.

Then a new boy is introduced, of course, because the old boy is dead. He’s far more interesting than Alex was because he is the son of a guy leading a group of staunch supports of the deliria lobotomy surgery and has already decided to have the surgery even though he suffers seizures and it’s highly likely to kill him. Julian is deeply flawed and damaged by his upbringing, so when he and Lena are thrown together in potential mortal danger, their interactions and drastically different life views create a nice contrast that didn’t quite show up between Alex and Lena in the first book. Julian isn’t perfect and sunshine shining through dark clouds or whatever miraculous thing Alex was meant to be.

Pandemonium also included many more action sequences because there were actual bad guys instead of the bad guy being a medical procedure that the main character can’t decide is bad or not and society in general. There are fights and riots and chase scenes that liven the story up. Having faces for the bad guys and motivation behind their actions other than “because society deems it so” adds one of the missing pieces from Delirium and rounds out the cruel world Lena inhabits. Additional new characters such as Raven and the other members of the resistance also add a sense of perspective that was previously missing while also giving Lena role models that lead her towards a more fully developed character.

Essentially Pandemonium was the complete opposite of Delirium for me. Unlike the first book, I really enjoyed everything in Pandemonium up until the ending, which was telecast way back from page 1 and if anyone was really surprised that what went down went down, then… they don’t read much YA. So after enjoying most of the book, I was left disappointed by the highly predictable ending and the bit of character assassination that seemed to come out of left field. Hopefully the final book in the series will put some perspective to those last moments to make it seem less annoying.

So yes, I’m going to finish the series. It’s still a bit silly to describe these books out loud, but at least we’ve moved beyond “lobotomize everyone because we said so” to more of a war of ideals with clear lines drawn between sides. That takes this series beyond the insta-love between Alex and Lena, and adds more depth to Lena and the world she inhabits. I’m hoping that Requiem surprises me and keeps me entertained and off-balanced for the whole book to create a great ending to a very uneven series.