A couple of months ago, I read and reviewed Lauren Oliver's Delirium, a story that takes place in a dystopian world where love is considered humanity's undoing, and is surgically sucked out of your soul at a specified age. It started out feeling silly, but eventually the whole scene (and the boy/girl chemistry) grew on me, and I was nearly giddy at the thought of two more books in the series.
Several weeks ago, my literary twin Jill said she had found an edgier version of Delirium in this book XVI, and that I must read it. And we must review it in tandem. And Jill is like Darth Vader, using the force to convince me to read stuff, so off I go. And you might want to mark this date down, because it is probably one of the few times I didn't share her enthusiasm for a book.
Synopsis: It is Chicago, in the year 2150. Big Brother is alive and well, with microchips implanted in humanity for tracking purposes, manipulative advertisements that are blaring 24/7 into the streets, bugged apartments, and mining communities have been formed on Mars. Prior to any girl's 16th birthday, they are officially off-base for sexual activity. But once they turn into "sex-teens", they are tattooed and open for business, whether there is consent or not.
Nina and her younger half-sister have been raised solely by their mother. Nina's father died when she was a baby, and her mother's current ill-tempered boyfriend has little to do with his love child. When Nina's mother is killed, secrets are revealed on her deathbed that defy everything Nina has even known to be true, and thus begins her quest for answers. When she meets a handsome young man and his group of friends, she is introduced to a sub-culture of radicals that are at work to overthrow the government.
My thoughts: The premise of the story sounds pretty compelling, doesn't it? I also give extra credit points for creating a world that is only a slight exaggeration from the one we live in now...predatory marketing, glorification of sex, corruption in government, and infringement of rights. Hey, the idea was there.
Despite this however, the story felt flat for me. I was instantly annoyed with the slang used. Sex-teen? Verts (for advertisements)? 'Letes (for athletes)? Instead of adding a feeling of immersion or authenticity, it just came across as sophomoric nonsense. Coincidences (or dare I even call it deus ex machina?) ran rampant.
Characters felt underdeveloped as well. We had a deathbed scene, and we had first love, so shouldn't my heart have skipped a beat? The author failed to inspire passion or investment, and honestly I give these things out pretty freely with the books I read. Perhaps one of the reasons why I felt left out in the cold was that the dialogue felt circular and basic. I know these are teenagers we are talking about here, so maybe I should have been a little more patient with them repeating themselves and lacking witty conversation.
Apparently Ms. Karr is working on a sequel to this novel, as well as a spin-off. I can honestly say that I have no intention of reading them.
Want a different opinion? Go check out Jill's review, which she is publishing today as well!
2.5 out of 5 stars