Author: Lauren Oliver
“So what was your name before?” I say, and she freezes, her back to me. “Before you came to the Wilds, I mean.”For a moment she stands there.Then she turns around.“You might as well get used to it now,” she says with quite intensity.“Everything you were, the life you had, the people you knew… dust.”She shakes her head and says, a little more firmly, “There is no before. There is only now, and what comes next.”After falling in love, Lena and Alex flee their oppressive society where love is outlawed and everyone must receive the “cure” – an operation that makes them immune to the delirium of love – but Lena alone manages to find her way to a community of resistance fighters. Although she is bereft without the boy she loves, her struggles seem to be leading her toward a new love.
While my Delirium review was a mess of feelings and thoughts I can’t put into words, I hope my Pandemonium review will iron that out. It’s been a few hours since I read Pandemonium and I hope I am thinking straight enough for this. So here goes… (Thank you to Sarah of HarperCollins for the review copy! <3)
Pandemonium was told in Lena’s point-of-view, alternating between the Lena now and the Lena then, the Lena right after she crossed the border and ran into the Wilds. At first, I was a bit frustrated with this because I can’t wait to meet Julian and fall in love with him. Haha, yes, I preempted my team and chose even before I started the series that I’ll be Team Julian. That’s for another discussion. However, the now and then POVs were actually crucial to the story. We see the present and it moves the story but the past also gleams into why the Lena now is like that, how she became as stone hard and as closed-off as she is now. We learn about her ordeals, about the inhabitants of the Wilds, how they live, how they survive, how they deal. We watch her get strong, stronger than she ever was, and lose all that feeling or at least, learn to hide it. We see her wash away the fear and the love, replace it with unrelenting anger and hatred towards people on the other side of the fence. In six months, Lena’s unrecognizable, even to me. It’s only in her thoughts that we still see the girl she once was, however grown up and mature she became.
After I got into the rhythm of the storytelling, I began to devour page after page of the book. I didn’t stop reading until 4 AM, with only 50 pages to go. I hated myself for stopping and I ended up rolling in bed, unable to sleep, thinking what’s gonna happen next. But I can’t risk getting caught reading until 4AM. My own little Lena moment, although far less dangerous than her breaking curfew in Delirium. Promises of more action were delivered in Pandemonium and I relished every moment. I am an action buff, in print and in visual medium, I can’t possibly get enough action. So Lena and Julian’s captivity, their eventual escape and everything that happened made my heart beat as if it wants to leap out of my chest. While I just want to know what happens next, I still very much liked the “then” inserts because I felt closer to Lena and with every tidbit I learn about her, I ended up more and more on her side, if that’s even possible. Yes, Lena is a character I completely related too, invested my emotions on and supported until the end.
Gripping, check. Characters? Check. We get to know lots of new characters in Pandemonium. Raven, Tack, Hunter, Julian and his dad and we even meet more. Surprisingly, most of them were layered characters too. I thought that with the influx of new characters, they wouldn’t be given much depth but I was wrong. They were real people too, as real as they can get. With emotions, with goals, with stakes. My heart broke for Raven and my heart fell when Hunter and Tack didn’t come back to the homestead. I think it’s wondrous if an author can get you to care for the main character but to make you care for everyone, I think that’s a feat in itself.
Of course, Pandemonium is not without its flaws. Maybe it’s just me having read tons of dystopia before but I see some plot points similar to others. But I didn’t mind those. What I did mind was the predictability of some events and that feeling of “of course” when the novel went deus ex machina on me. Also, when it felt like they were living in such a small world, I went all “of course it was her mom” again. It was somehow too easy, too convenient. And of course, the ending. I knew Alex will resurface, of course he will, and I willed Pandemonium to take a different track, to reveal the reveal differently. But alas it played exactly as how I foresaw it and while it still stressed me out, thinking about the fallout of Alex’s comeback bound to happen in Requiem, I also felt resigned because I knew that this was going to happen. The little details of the novel were far more surprising or shocking. Julian’s thoughts and childhood, Raven’s life before the Wilds, all these were far more unpredictable and therefore, were really juicy tidbits to chew on and ponder on.
However, amidst all its flaws, the writing remained exquisitely beautiful. Probably less poetic and drawling than Delirium as needed by its more action-packed plot, but it’s still there. The air of poignancy, of the bittersweetness young Lena’s forced to accept and live with. Once again, I’m quoting a passage here so you can read for yourself.
“But…books are so much more. Some of them are webs; you can feel your way along their threads, but just barely, into strange and dark corners. Some of them are balloons bobbing up through the sky: totally self-contained, and unreachable, but beautiful to watch. And some of them―the best ones―are doors.”
See? Beautiful. So beautiful. And of course, since I’m quoting and all, I cannot NOT include the slogan of all #TeamJulian out there:
“I want to know. I want to know with you.”
Yes, it has its flaws but for me, Pandemonium was amazing. To those who found Delirium just right, I think you will surely enjoy Pandemonium more, especially if you felt like Delirium was plotless and wanted some more action. I can’t wait to read Requiem and see for myself if I will still be loyal to Team Julian. Ha!