by Lauren Oliver
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver picks up right where the first book in the series, Delirium, left off. Lena, having escaped Portland and the government forcing her to “cure” herself from love, is struggling to survive in a dangerous, harsh, and alien world of The Wilds without Alex, the boy she loves, to give her strength. In the Wilds Lena is reborn and comes to rely on herself more than ever. Through this journey, Lena becomes part of the Resistance, learning more about her past and her future.
One of the things Lauren Oliver does exceptionally well is craft living, breathing characters. Living in the Wilds, the new people Lena finds are hard without room for excuses, laziness or error. While there is freedom, there is still a sense of entrapment, as they never know when the next attack is going to come. Raven, the leader of the group, is one of the strongest in terms of development. A character who invokes hatred and love, she helps Lena in too many ways for her not to be important. She is Lena’s mother in a way, and is integral to the story. The other new character that makes an impact is Julian. A boy raised in the Cities, he is a true believer of the “cure”. But his meeting Lena changes him and ultimately Julian turns Lena’s mission towards a different outcome. This outcome affects everything.
Besides her amazing characterization, Oliver’s world building is phenomenal. There is a dream like quality, overlaid with grittiness. But the best part of the world building is that it is so grounded in our own reality that you can imagine this coming to pass. Love being made a sickness, an EMP coming and destroying things, the government mandating who people can be with: it all has a base in what’s happening in our own society now. This gives the reader a foundation to cling to, all the while making the events of the story that much more terrifying.
But what makes the entire book sing is the writing. Oliver has such a powerful gift with language. Lines that are harsh still carry beauty within them, and lines filled with happiness are still overlaid with sorrow. The pace is just right with the ebb and flow of action crafted to lull or speed up the reader. Breaking the book into chapters titled “Then” and “Now” was genius; it gave the full scope of Lena’s experience until it finally merges together at the end, creating a juxtaposition with the beginning of Lena’s journey to the end. There was harmony throughout, something that is found in all of Oliver’s books.
Pandemonium is a vast bridge one must cross; it can be a difficult journey, but the reward at the end is well worth it. Lauren Oliver is building up to something fantastic in the sequel of the trilogy, Requiem, and the reader can’t get there without reading Pandemonium first. An amazing dystopia, readers will take Lena’s journey to find love to heart.