What I Learned from Delirium

Note: Here’s the first of my op ed pieces about the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver. All opinion expressed in this article is mine alone and does not reflect the official views of this site, Ms. Oliver, or any affiliated party. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy! xo Anna

Of love, Lena Haloway fears one thing above the rest. It is “the deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.”

Lena never wanted to fall in love. In her world, love is a dangerous even deadly condition, one which must be eradicated in order to shape an orderly, productive society. Lena fully supports this dogma, so much so she even counts down the days until she can undergo the procedure that cures citizens of amor deliria nervosa, the medical term for love.

Of course, as is with all fiction, when would we ever want to see a character get what they want on page one? Literature is best served on top of a heaping pile of conflict. And so, against her wishes and despite her resistance, Lena falls in love with the mysterious and intriguing Alex. And even worse- she finds she’s happy that she’s acquired the deadly deliria.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver proves the old adage that love conquers all. But at what cost?

After I finished reading Delirium, my head was a woozy cocktail of emotions. I all but stumbled and tripped my way over to my friend, who had read the book previously. “Oh my God, Cora,” was all I could say about the book. Cora smiled and replied, “I know, right?” Oliver has written one of those books that makes you laugh, cry, scream, and gnaw on its pages in hopes that you’ll ingest some of the genius behind the novel. Wait, that’s just me? Um… moving on.

My first thoughts upon finishing Delirium (without giving away any spoilers, of course) had me considering just how powerful love can be. Now, full disclaimer, at the age of 20 I’ve never been romantically in love (well, except maybe with Lena’s beaux Alex, but we’ll discuss that in a different setting.) So I can’t (and wouldn’t want to) definitively prove what I’m about to say is true, I only hope to impart to you how Delirium has affected my perspective on true, heart-wrenching, mind-numbing love.

Halfway through the book, I would have been confident that I knew the message that the story was trying to give. I would have said that, in the words of the timeless Beatles, “all you need is love.” What I didn’t realize then, and what I realize now, having finished the book, is that while you need love, love also needs you.

Why? Because love is fickle. Love is cruel. Love will take your heart, twist it, rip it in half, throw it on the ground and do a little tap dance on it. Love needs you to be strong enough to withstand the abuse. Lena’s story isn’t just a love story, it is a story of her strength. She can take a hit and stay standing. At the climax of the book, she takes a huge hit and still manages to keep fighting. If she had let love take over completely, would she have had the will to reject her fate and forge a new path? In the end, love saved her. But courage, determination, strength of character, and compassion saved her, too.

By no means do I claim that what I think about Delirium is what Oliver intended to impart to her readers. But what I learned from Delirium is this: love is too powerful. We need to conquer it by embracing it, saddling it, controlling it, and bending it to our will. As the saying goes, love can destroy you, but it can also set you free. The choice is up to you.

With this in mind, I’d like to send out my own message. As I said before, I’ve never been romantically in love. And for a long while, I’d mope, I’d whine, and I’d sulk because I had not yet found love. I know there are many others out there like me. To them I say: we can’t let the idea of love take over us. Love needs us to be strong in order for us to withstand its triumphs and tragedies.

Don’t give up, but don’t give in, either.

Lena leaves us in Delirium in quite a different situation than the one she started out in. And it was with eager hands that I grabbed Oliver’s next book in the trilogy, Pandemonium. Oliver’s work gives us something rare and precious: they give us time to examine ourselves, our love, and how the two go together. I highly recommend the series to any reader, young or old, in or out of love, who wants to get to know a smart, strong young woman who feared love, but ended up conquering it, anyway.

The third installment of the trilogy, Requiem, will be released in 2013.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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