What would you do if you were told you could be “cured” of the emotional roller coaster of life, and that a timeproven “procedure” would keep you forever “happy and safe”? You’d say, “What’s the catch?”
Delirium by Lauren Oliver allows teens to examine the tradeoffs—without undergoing irrevocable surgery. The idea of forbidden love goes back to David and Bathsheba, Romeo and Juliet. Lena’s feelings for Alex are taboo. Even though he has the mark of the “cured,” Alex stirs in Lena symptoms of delirium. She finds herself doing things she’d never done before, forbidden things.
The larger theme of the book is the ability to question, so central to adolescence and becoming an independent adult. We have to create a distance from the rules to decide which of them makes sense for us as individuals. Lauren Oliver paints an extreme case in which no one, not even adults, is allowed outside the boundaries of certain behaviors nor permitted outside of certain physical territories bounded by a fence. Outside the fence are the Wilds. But Lena, haunted by the memory of her mother, wonders if her mother was telling Lena to go her own way. Lena’s best friend breaks the rules, which at first cause Lena to lash out at her, but then prompts her to question why the rules are so stringent. Why does the society want to control them?
Lena is not someone who rebels for rebellion’s sake. She resists the rules that seem to go against human nature, that try to curb curiosity, love, and freedom.