Book review: Lauren Oliver’s “Pandemonium”

When I first set out to read Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium” books, I had only meant to give myself some background since it’s just plain embarrassing to interview an author whose work you aren’t familiar with. If it weren’t for the interview, I don’t think I would have picked it on my own.

Of course, that was no longer the case by the time I was done with “Delirium”. Like I said in my review, Lauren Oliver had me hooked when she finally got the ball rolling with the story, and I couldn’t wait to find out what she had in store for me in “Pandemonium”.

But will these high expectations end up spoiling “Pandemonium” for me? Or will the book live up to it and more?

Spoiler: It did.

“Pandemonium” introduces us to a very different Lena. Now living in New York and a part of the Resistance, she is now tasked with infiltrating Deliria Free America (DFA), a Cured activist group. During the course of her mission, she ends up stuck with the DFA poster boy, Julian Fineman, and suffice it to say that things don’t go exactly as planned.

Alternating with the chapters narrating Lena’s mission (“Now”) are the ones chronicling the events that happened immediately after Lena’s disastrous escape with Alex(“Then”). We’re introduced to Raven, Hunter, Tack, and a few other characters who help Lena get back up on her feet — but not always in the most delicate of ways.

Pretty soon, Lena’s “then” and “now” end up catching with each other. Will Lena be strong enough to handle this collision? Or will her newfound strength just crumble in the face of the revelations that are about to happen?

Unlike its predecessor, “Pandemonium” was able to grab my attention right off the bat by completely ignoring the cliffhanger in the first book and immediately introducing us to a Lena so wildly different from the one in “Delirium”. Now my curiosity was piqued: How did Lena survive the Wilds? How did Lena up as part of the resistance? Is Alex really dead?

The new structure with which Lauren Oliver chose to tell the story is also a great change from the one in “Delirium”. Oliver is telling us two stories in “Pandemonium”, and by doling it out in bits and pieces she had me constantly turning the pages to find out what happens in both narratives.

Also, I hope that I’m not the only one thinking this, but I thought it was clever how the chapters were basically a big honking clue as to what was going to happen at the end of the novel. I knew it was going to happen while I was reading it, but I only now — as in only now — just realized that the chapter titles practically spelled it out.

I didn’t expect to like the introduction of Julian as another love interest — every YA book nowadays seems to have a love triangle going for it — but I did end up being solidly Team Julian. I’m just such a sucker for the opposites attract trope, and it was refreshing for me to have the gender roles inverted this time around, with the girl being the more dominant presence between the two.

All of the above reasons, coupled with another cliffhanger ending, had me liking this book so much more than “Delirium”. And just like I said in my review of that book, I can’t wait to find out how it all ends in “Requiem”.

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