PANDEMONIUM (Delirium #2)
Available February 28th
Received from publisher for review
Warning: review contains spoilers from Delirium, but no spoilers from Pandemonium.
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The old Lena is dead. The old Lena remains with Alex in Portland, Maine, behind a wall of smoke and flame, but the new Lena was born in the Wilds, transformed by hardship, deprivation, and loss.
Now an active member of the resistance, Lena fights for a world in which love will no longer be considered a dangerous disease. Her inner life is as turbulent as the world around her. . . . Although consumed with grief for Alex, might she be falling in love with someone else?
While Delirium introduced us to a world where the pursuit of perfection resulted in the elimination of the very emotions that make life worth living, Pandemonium takes us back to a place where the rawness of pain, love and loss is a tangible thing–the memory of what was within Lena's grasp and then ripped away a companion dogging our every step as we follow her through her life after Alex. Delirium gave us shells of human beings, individuals bottled up tight and sealed with a cure lest a modicum of independent thought or feeling slip through, but with Pandemonium we get a new cast of characters not hindered by the regulations governing those inside the fences. More interestingly however, we get a new Lena. A Lena who used to subscribe to the deceptively appealing poison spouted by proponents of the cure but who now survives with memories of the boy she loved piercing her skin every time her mind drifts back to him, turning her into a sieve through which pour all the tragically beautiful droplets of Alex and his sacrifice.
Ms. Oliver does a stunning job of crafting an Alex-free story, showing us just how strong-willed Lena is without him there to help her navigate a world where touch is encouraged instead of forbidden, and where love leaves scars that are not to be feared but cherished instead. While we may have physically cringed upon reading the synopsis and learning of a possible new love interest for Lena, we quickly realize there is going to be no quick fix for the destruction left in the wake of Alex’s demise, and we take a sort of comfort in her obvious pain knowing she’s clearly no more ready to move on than we are. Chapters split into two time periods in Lena’s life—the time immediately following Lena’s escape over the fence and a few months into the future as she’s on assignment for the resistance—give us action-packed glimpses of a transformed young woman, and it’s easy to find ourselves supporting her in her mourning, her resolve to take advantage of Alex’s gift, and her attempts to build a new life from the literal ashes of her previous one.
New potential love interest Julian is in much the same place Lena was in Delirium, a parrot repeating the ideals and doctrines of a grossly confused society while harboring secret thoughts of what life might be like if things were different. He’s perfectly likeable and his relationship with Lena builds at a slow enough pace to give us time to adjust to him, allowing our damaged and love-shy hearts to warm at an acceptable speed so we don’t feel like our fledgling attraction to Julian is a betrayal of Alex. Though he doesn’t completely win us over in this second installment, he does a multitude of small things that go a long way to helping Lena heal, and for that alone we begin to let him through our Alex-plated defenses.
Though Pandemonium definitely has the feel of a book building us up for what are sure to be epic events in the next installment, Ms. Oliver gives us plenty of new information and creates enough new strong and intriguing relationships to ensure this story isn’t simply filler. We do end with yet another emotional cliffhanger, one we sense coming but one that still hits us like a fist to the gut nonetheless. The final three words spoken are a painful mockery of the words "I love you" that were such a vital part of Delirium, each word tumbling from the speaker’s lips in a way that causes us to erupt in a full body shudder as the venom in them leaves us cold and broken with no other course of action but to wait and see what kind of response they will receive in book three.