Saturday, April 13, 2013

YA Sci-Fi: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Series: Delirium #2
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: February 2012
Format: ARC
Source: ARCycling
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 375
Reading time: four days
*spoiler warning: contains spoilers of Delirium as well as slight spoilers of Pandemonium*

Lena has escaped Portland, Maine, for the Wilds, but in the process she lost Alex. In the midst of her grief, she falls in with the resistance. Moving from the hard struggle for life with a group of fellow Invalids to rebellion back in the city, is it possible Lena could fall in love again?

Overall, I think I enjoyed Pandemonium more than Delirium. I dislike romance-driven dystopias, and I found it hard to connect with Lena and Alex's relationship in the first book. It just seemed too cliche. On the contrary, what I really liked about Pandemonium was how Lauren Oliver navigates around some of the genres' tropes. After all, how many authors kill off their main character's love interest?! And while Lena's budding relationship with Julian did seem predictable, it's still perfectly realistic and understandable because of the situations into which they're forced together. No insta-love here, just a lot of scary adventures and running and near-death experiences. Sounds to me like a good way for two people to be drawn closer to each other.

The other main thing I liked about Pandemonium was how un-central the romance was. Sure, Lena's having the typical teen girl dilemma over "I really liked this guy, but he's gone [okay, so in real life the "gone" part usually refers to "unavailable" for various benign reasons, not "dead"]...are these feelings I'm starting to get for someone else alright?", but her musings don't dominate the story. Which is good, because, as she's part of the resistance and getting into all kinds of dangerous scrapes, sorting out her conflicted emotions is maybe not the best use of her time.

So, the plot of Pandemonium is more action- than romance-dominated. Many thanks, Lauren Oliver, from a reader who occasionally wonders if she's emotionally devoid because she just doesn't get most YA romances. Sometimes it felt like the story itself was progressing slowly, but that's because the chapters alternated between Lena's time in the Wilds and the present. The set-up actually made it really interesting to simultaneously see how Lena's mind and body changed in the Wilds and how these changes affected her thoughts and actions while she was with Julian. I breezed right through the book, though I really wish a certain character had not made an unexpected reappearance at the cliff-hanging very end of the novel. They had no right to pop back up, and I found it rather irritating. Though it does leave me curious at to what Requiem has in store, which I suppose is the point.

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