Title: Requiem (Delirium series, Book 3)
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: YA (Dystopian Romance)
Publication Date: March 05, 2013
Hardcover: 391 pages
Is There a Pooka in This Book? No.
I hate reviewing books in a series. Unfortunately, I love reading them. And I’ve made that
ridiculous promise to myself that I’ll leave no book behind & unreviewed. So, my paw is forced and I have to review “Requiem,” the third book in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy. But I don’t have to do it in-depth, and I won’t. It sucks to write about the third book in a trilogy when you know most of your audience hasn’t read the first two. Hopefully the fact that this review kind of sucked to write won’t mean that it sucks to read. Regardless, this is not a labor of love.
Speaking of love, that’s what Oliver’s series is all about. The books are set in a dystopian society where love is viewed as a dangerous sickness. Even when it’s requited, love distracts. And when it’s not requited? Hearts are broken. Many times, the people harboring those hearts are wholly and irrevocably broken along with them. Fortunately, scientists have found a cure. With it, they say, people are now “free” to live calm, rational lives. No more crazy decisions. No more foolish self-sacrifice. No more pain. And no more passion. Everyone gets the cure. Ironically, although it’s supposed to make you “free,” being cured is mandatory.
There is, of course, a rebel faction, which believes there can be no happiness and no joy without sadness and sorrow. They believe that “freedom” is a beast much different from the one that society’s caged & put on display. “Freedom” is a wild beast, and that’s where you can find it – in “the Wilds” – in the woods beyond the boundaries of the developed towns and cities. In the places where the members of this rebel faction – “Invalids” – live and love.
Lena is a girl about to be administered the cure, and she’s counting down the days. In just a few months, she’ll turn eighteen, have the procedure, and be protected from a disease she’s been scared of her whole life. After her father died, her mother died of heartbreak and her sister committed suicide before the cure could rid her of the love she found before the age of eighteen. She’d decided that she’d rather die than be forced to stop feeling what she felt for the boy she’d come to love. Lena can’t wait. She wants her memories of her family to stop hurting so much. She wants the nightmares she has about their deaths to subside. She doesn’t want to be sick like they were. She doesn’t want to die. She just wants to be happy.
Alex is a boy from the Wilds. The two meet before Lena’s countdown ends.
“Delirium” is set in Portland, Maine. “Pandemonium” is set mostly in the Wilds. In the second book, a new character, Julian, the son of the leader of the DFA movement (Delirium-Free America), is introduced. And “Requiem” is the wrap-up, in which the two groups, pro and anti-Love, finally come head-t0-head for a final showdown. Who will win? What will the future look like? Is it better to be free or safe?
“Requiem” was mostly about testing the limits of love, which was appropriate because it ended up testing the limits of my love for Lauren Oliver. I thought she & I really had something special but she let me down. “Requiem” was not her finest writing. In fact, neither was “The Spindlers,” the last book of hers that I read (not part of the Delirium trilogy). In contrast, I loved “Delirium,” tore through “Pandemonium,” and “Liesl & Po”, a standalone Middle Grade novel, was the best of the bunch. It’s become one of my favorite reads in its genre. If I don’t consider books from my childhood (which will always hold a special place in my heart), it’s my absolute favorite Middle Grade novel. I highly recommend it even if you don’t usually read books intended for 9-12 year olds. The writing is gorgeous and it deals brilliantly with the uncertainty and ambiguity of what comes after death. There’s magic and shadows and tenderness.
“Requiem,” on the other hand, felt rushed. Lev Grossman, author of “The Magicians” and “The Magician King,” just did an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit, in which he talked about the role of publishers and editors. He said, “Sometimes I wish they’d be tougher on me. Their job is to get books out the door. My job is to write a book that I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life. Those two goals are not always compatible.” That’s what “Requiem” felt like. It felt like it was shoved out the door before it was polished. I wonder if Lauren Oliver’s proud of it. It hurts me to think that she might not be (that’s love, baby) but it worries me to think that she might be. She can’t continue like this.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t read “Requiem.” There are some shining moments, most of them in the form of metaphors. When Hana, Lena’s best friend, passes the remains of a city, for example, she notes, “I pass an old foundation, exposed to the air, and it reminds me, weirdly, of the X-rays my dentist used to show me: toothy, gray structures, like a jaw split open and tacked to the ground” (82). And strangely, there were two metaphors that I really liked that had to do with eggs. In the Wilds, Lena observes, “The sun has made a complete revolution and is now sinking down over the trees, breaking up into watery streaks of yellow and orange. It reminds me of the poached eggs my mother used to make me when I was sick as a small child, how the yolk would seep across the plate, vivid and startling gold, and I feel a sharp stab of homesickness” (234). Then, as Hana is sitting behind her driver, being chauffeured around town, she thinks, “His bald head, nestled in his shirt collar, reminds me of a swollen pink egg” (225). That last one gave me a weird dream in which a friend of mine was turned on by scalps. I don’t want to think about it too much… but it was an interesting comparison that apparently stayed with me. Even the metaphors started feeling old after awhile, though. The formation of them, of one thing constantly reminding Lena of another, got stale. And though there were shining moments (aside from the metaphors, there was a part when Lena remarks “This is what amazes me: that people are new every day. That they are never the same. You must always invent them, and they must invent themselves, too” that I found especially shiny), there just weren’t as many of them as there should have been, considering the talent of the author.
And then there’s the ending. It wasn’t satisfying or conclusive. Normally, I have no problem with open-ended “endings.” But this one, somehow, felt like a cop-out. I understand what she was trying to do… for everyone to end up living happily-ever after, secure in their relationships, knowing they’d be together forever before they’re even 20? That would’ve been untrue to the nature of love. It would’ve totally ignored the inherent danger in allowing yourself to love another person. But the way she ended it didn’t feel true and masterful. It felt weak.
I think the strongest part of the book was the short-story found at the end of it, separate from it and included only in the first-printing. It felt particularly poignant reading it now, in New England, when we’ve been suffering through blizzard after blizzard, experiencing one of the worst winters we’ve had in years. Oliver writes:
“That’s what Zombieland [cured society] is: frozen, calm, quiet. It’s the world after a blizzard, the peacefulness that comes with it, the muffled silence and the sense that nothing in the world is moving. It’s beautiful, in its own way.
Maybe we’d be better off.
But how could anyone who’s ever seen a summer – big explosions of green and skies lit up electric with splashy sunsets, a riot of flowers and wind that smells like honey – pick the snow?”
Sing it, sista.
It was the only part of “Requiem” that felt like a song.
If “Requiem” was a standalone book, I wouldn’t recommend it. But I wouldn’t not recommend the trilogy – and you can’t read the first two books of a series without reading the last one, even if you are, ultimately, going to be disappointed by it.
Here’s my final advice: if you’ve never read Lauren Oliver, don’t start with the Delirium trilogy. Go pick up “Liesl & Po” instead. Let her show you what she’s got. If you have read her and you have read the trilogy and you’re about to read or have just finished “Requiem,” I’m sorry and I feel your pain.
Lauren hurt me but I still love her – unconditionally.
I mean, just look at her.
Adorable. She’d never get an invite to my “Authors Who Look Like Assholes” tea party. And she’s a self-proclaimed lover of “anything that can be done in pajamas, such as writing and watching television.” A girl after my own heart.
I hope she pushes back against the publishers with her next write. She deserves the time to craft the lyrical, crystallized prose that I know she’s capable of.
Pooka Rating: 2.75 out of 5 Nibbles.
Oh, P.S. Fox might be picking up Delirium as a tv series. A pilot’s being made at least.