Lauren Oliver
ISBN 9780061726828
HarperCollins, 2011.
4 stars
Keywords: coming-age delirium independence lauren-oliver love romance society

by Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall) takes readers into a not-too-distant future in Portland, Maine, in which people must be “cured” of the ability to love. The author grabs your teen right from the beginning: “In the old days, the dark days, people didn’t realize how deadly a disease love was,” says Lena Haloway. For more than four decades, there has been a cure for the disease, called “delirium,” granted to everyone on his or her 18th birthday with a simple “procedure.” Lena will get hers in 95 days. But not everyone believes in the procedure. These “sympathizers” are often put to death.

As the book begins, Lena believes that the procedure will leave her “happy and safe forever.” She’ll get her list of approved matches, and marry one in three months. But something goes awry during her “evaluation.” She remembers the last words her mother spoke to her at age six, “I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” Swept up in these memories, Lena doesn’t respond with the answers she’d prepared, and she raises suspicions among her evaluators. Luckily, she’s saved by a stampede of cows in the examination room. And when she looks up to the observation deck, she sees someone laughing. His name is Alex, and he “infects” Lena—in the best possible way. Lena begins to question the teachings they’ve been handed down. She hears music, poetry and fairy tales for the first time. She sees the ocean and learns to dance. But these taboo freedoms also scare her, and she oscillates between wanting the “safety” the procedure promises and the excitement of feeling things fully.  She gets at the heart of that tug-of-war between wanting to grow up and be independent, and feeling frightened and wanting to be taken care of. The suspense mounts as Lena weighs her choices and their consequences. Your teen will be pulled into this vision of a society that decides what’s best for everyone and takes extreme measures to implement its vision.

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