Requiem by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
This review will spoil the heck out of the Delirium series, FYI.
First of all, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Delirium—it was overwritten, over-long, and overwrought. That sentence is a shout-out to Oliver’s style of employing three descriptors or modifiers to nearly everything!
I did like the second book, Pandemonium. It was fast-paced and Lena had evolved into a more interesting and active character. She was strong and smart, and I liked her slowly growing feelings for Julian. I liked that she dealt with the presumed death of her first love and surprised herself by finding her second.
I didn’t like the end and rolled my eyes when her first love magically reappeared at the end of the book. Side note: It’s amazing how often the people Lena needs to find magically appear at various points in this series!
The second book turned the series around for me, and I looked forward to seeing how Lena would evolve, how the triangle would be resolved, and how the “invalids” would face off against their former society.
However, the series closer didn’t do any of those things. In fact, it didn’t do much of anything at all.
Lena, Julian and Alex (and crew) spend the entire book basically wandering around The Wilds. Since Lena has so little going on the story cuts back and forth between Lena’s POV and that of her best friend Hana, who is rising in the ranks of the real society by marrying up. There are so many ways this might have been more exciting as a story—what if Hana was becoming a true foil for Lena on the other side!? Best friends torn asunder by their place in the world? Seemed like a cool direction but it never panned out. There is never any question that their stories will merge and there is never any question that Hana is not on board with the regime to eliminate the people who live in The Wilds despite being “cured”.
Normally, I don’t find myself wishing a story were going in the way I would have written or liked it to go—but since nothing was going on, I amused myself by thinking of possible plot directions for the characters.
Hana was a spitfire before she got cured and she has some real moments here, too. Sadly, she is stuck under a silly plot that has her marrying Blackbeard/Mr. Rochester—a crazy person who slowly reveals his true nature. Nothing that happens is even mildly surprising. In fact, what happened to his first wife is so obvious that you want to pull Hana aside and explain it to her so we could all skip ahead a few chapters and save everybody a little time.
Lena, meanwhile, continues to wander about The Wilds and bump into people. She tries to talk to Alex once. He tells her he never loved her (like you do in contrived scenarios) and then Alex—our hero!—beats the hell out of Julian (presumably over his jealousy though this is never really explored; in fact, Lena spends most of the rest of the book hanging out with Julian and NEVER asks him what led up to the beating he took while she was asleep!) and then he disappears for most of the rest of the book.
This is one of those infuriating stories where if everybody had just hashed out their feelings—and they are together for great stretches of time in the woods with nothing to do!—there would be no tension. And there is literally no good reason why they don’t talk about their feelings. None of these characters was ever particularly closed off before so why are they now when they have nothing but time to hang?
One development: Lena—fortuitously!—runs into her own long-lost mother in the middle of the woods and has catharsis! And then realizes that maybe Alex really did love her. Poor Alex. I’m sure we won’t see him again…oh, wait, of course we will.
So finally, Lena and Hana end up in the same place they started and Hana randomly brings Lena back to her house and serves her food in a very weird and nonsensical scene. Of course, Hana makes good with Lena, in a way, and Lena delivers the knowledge Hana needs to rid herself of her psycho boyfriend. Hana disappears into the woods in the middle of a climactic battle—never to be seen again!
Lena heads off to find her younger cousin Grace who is, of course, easily found. The rest of Lena’s family has apparently left young Grace alone in the midst of a battle as the Invalids have scaled a newly built wall and are attacking largely unarmed.
So, Lena heads back to this wall and sees that people—the ones who live in The Wilds and some younger people who have yet to be cured (she knows this just by looking around at the crowd?) are tearing the wall apart. Where the police and military have gone is anybody’s guess.
Fortuitously (!) she runs into Alex and of course he admits—finally!—that he still loves her. And she still loves him. But life is complicated. And there is poor Julian a few feet away (busily tearing down the wall despite his busted face). And she doesn’t know what she’ll do about these two lovers!
And that’s basically the end of the book. Oliver doesn’t resolve the romantic tension. She doesn’t resolve the revolution. She doesn’t even bring the epic battle of militarized police against a largely unarmed populace to a close. In the final paragraphs Oliver changes tone entirely and addresses the reader directly, imploring them to tear down their own walls because, you know, we all have them, I guess and symbolism and whatever.
Now, it’s fine to leave uncertainty—I love ambiguity and I’m fine with the world not being set right (it would certainly be a very long journey to that place, right? And by 75% into this book I realized nothing like that was going to happen at all). But to suddenly break the veil and give the reader a sense that now it’s time to fight your own fight? It was a head scratcher for me. And, honestly, shouldn’t that be implicit? Thematically, this was a story about a girl finding her footing and taking a stand. Great. I love that. Do I need you to turn to me at the end and say: Go for it, girl! Get yours like I got mine! Even if it means your entire world is plunged into chaos! Woot.
Lena is, in the end, left torn between two boys (and I seriously didn’t care who she chose because neither have a personality or even much dialogue in this book at all). Her society is in chaos so we are left not even knowing if cops were going to show up and shoot the people tearing down the wall. And the wall itself, clearly, was meant to evoke the Berlin Wall but since the Portland Wall was only introduced in the final act of the series and to Lena just before the final battle it really didn’t hold that much potent symbolism—who cares if you tear down a wall that was built in the last 6 months?
There is only the thinnest mention that the uprising had spread to the general populace. So the series was left entirely up in the air with the only real arc—that Lena went from a scared, mousy girl to a strong girl who makes her own way in the world—long resolved in book two. I seriously have no idea what this book was for. There was no story and no character arc. It felt pointless.
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