I guess I am on a dystopian kick...not sure if that says more about me or about the current young adult fiction market... Anyway, this book is a bit slow and a bit long for what it is until it gets to, say, the last fifty pages or so. Then, the story rockets off before crashing blindly to its end. I am big on thorough resolution, so this is a pet peeve of mine.
I feel like the end of this book was written the way it was solely to pave the way for the sequel. I have zero issues with series. I do, however, have issues with books that are written just to write more books. Each story should be complete, freestanding. Of course, not everything can be resolved. I understand that fact, but I resent the purposeful condensing of the end of the story because the good stuff is all being saved for the next book. Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series is guilty of this same crime of authorship, though the worst offender, in my opinion, is Richard Paul Evans' The Walk. I understand that with the publishing industry in the shape it's in, there are economic necessities, but I remain annoyed.
The premise of the novel, that the world has created an operation to eliminate love (deliria nervosa) from its citizens is far-fetched but thought-provoking. And, almost all dystopian novels have some pretty crazy premises. The Hunger Games--fighting children in a ring. The Uglies series--operations to make someone beautiful. I mean, really, it's in keeping with most of the genre. That being said, Oliver isn't exactly subtle. For me, the operation was reminiscent of The Giver except that Louis Lowry's amazing work blows Oliver out of the water, all while using subtlety. Clearly, Oliver wants to explore a world without love, but she puts too blunt of a point on it. She cudgels us with it when she is clearly capable of so much more (or so much less, perhaps!). The tiny excerpts from "cultural materials" at the beginning of each chapter show that Oliver can think of the tiny details, can slowly twist our current world into something ugly and cold and loveless while leaving these little familiar pieces for us to recognize. So, why, why, why does she use an operation featuring cutting your brain apart and young girls launching themselves off lab roofs to make her point? It's too extreme, and it takes away our ability to relate to the dystopia, to see it as possible and to fear it, which is, I am pretty sure, the point of the genre. Essentially, Oliver wants to explore a world without love and she pretty much stamps that on the first page of the novel through the discussion of the operation. Really, give the readers a job--make them work a bit--don't create one side that is clearly evil and one that is clearly good, liberated, and free. The world isn't, and will never be, like that. This is the difference between the nuanced dystopias of Lowry or (at times) Collins and that of Oliver.
In a related vein, I felt that, because Oliver was so painfully clear about whose side we should be on, I spent three-quarters of the novel waiting on stupid, cattle-like Lena to catch on. I started to actually resent her for her boundless stupidity. I understand I was supposed to relate to her confusion, but how could I do that when Oliver had already given me all of the answers--told me who to sympathize with without exception? Oliver squashed her own world and her own protagonist with a heavy hand.
Now, on the positive side--Delirium, though long, was still a page turner for me. Oliver is an excellent writer, the kind who paints images with words in a way that makes you realize she has true talent. She is especially gifted when it comes to portraying Alex. Oddly, when I think of this book, I think of all her vivid descriptions of oranges and yellows and coppers--the autumn hues she uses to describe all of Alex, the sun on the water, the sunset, the fire at the end of the book. Oliver is absolutely a talented writer, in that sense. She has the way with words that anyone who is writing novels needs. Also, she really did make me care about Alex, probably because she kept telling me how beautiful and good and pure he was. I should have been immune to that sort of overkill, but she described him so beautifully that she hooked me on this part of the story.
In the end, I would be willing to try another book from her, preferably in a different genre. I am just not sure dystopia is right for her, whether or not it's trending right now.