It’s been some time since I lasted posted. The start of the year saw me launching a home based business, celebrating mine and my guy’s birthdays plus our anniversary, and becoming embroiled in organizing a Home Business and Craft Bazaar for a local volunteer social group I joined. It’s all been great fun but I was so busy that the mere thought of sitting in front of a computer screen at the end of the day just didn’t get my creative juices flowing. That, and my time to indulge in reading was limited as well. I pledged to read 30 books this year on Goodreads, a far sight less than previous years, and I’m already behind. Bibliophiles talk of book hangovers, I was (and truthfully still am) going through book withdrawals. It was hard to look over at my bookshelf, at all the newly acquired novels just waiting for me to caress their pages, and not have the energy to devote to reading any of them.
But finally, FINALLY, my life is beginning to return to a normal rhythm. This means that I’ll be back with more book reviews and my thoughts on the local Dayton, OH area places worth visiting or missing. During my accidental self-imposed sabbatical, I visited a winery in Versailles, explored the WACO Museum, tried a few new local dive restaurants, and did crack pages of a couple books (just not as many as I would’ve liked. #AdultingSucks). One of the books I was able to sneak in was Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. It’s the sequel to Delirium and book #2 in the series.
I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.
Pandemonium quite literally picks up where Delirium ended. Unlike most books that have a bit of a recap in the beginning, don’t expect that here. The reader is dropped right into Lena’s drive to get as far away from the fence as possible. She’s injured and wholly unprepared to be in the Wilds. Especially alone. She’s also heartbroken over losing Alex. If it weren’t for a group led by Raven stumbling across her, Lena would’ve more than likely given up in and died in those woods. As it was, she was hard pressed to find the will to go on once her body had recovered. Everything she knew, everything she had planned for the future, was gone. My heart went out to her. Lena desperately needed a kick in the pants to get her firmly back on the side of the living and the kick came in the form of Raven.
I really liked Raven’s character. She was a bad ass with a soft heart she kept hidden. Slowly becoming a maternal figure, she taught Lena some tough lessons that needed to be learned if she was to survive in the Wilds and help with the Resistance. Raven was everything I had hoped Lena would become after reading the first book. Despite us seeing Lena get stronger and grow into this new mental construct she created to survive, there’s still traces of the original Lena that peaks through. I feel like Lauren was able to present us with a nice middle line between Lena’s old pushover personality and Raven’s stricter, more harder edged one. This amalgam is something I didn’t even know I wanted to see in Lena until it happened. So thank you, Ms. Oliver, for that.
One thing I did have problems with was the bouncing back and forth between “Then” and “Now”. Oliver chose to alternate her chapters, eventually merging into the present storyline. I suppose it was to keep the reader guessing but it mostly just messed the flow up for me. I would have much rather her present the story in a traditional linear way. The back and forth didn’t add anything to the story as far as I could tell. It wasn’t like she was having a flashback to reinforce a lesson she was living in the present. Which brings me to the main plot of this book… The Resistance kidnapping Julian.
Quick summary, Julian is the son of a very powerful man and leader of the Deliria Free America (DFA) organization. The DFA is pushing to give the Cure at an earlier age and take a more harder line against the Invalids. Julian heads up the Youth Division and was so far spared from getting the Cure due to a brain tumor. During a DFA rally, Julian and Lena (tasked with watching him) were both kidnapped and held hostage by a third faction, the Scavengers. Seemingly to be held for ransom. Despite Lena trying to keep Julian at arms length, they eventually warm to each other while imprisoned together and through their subsequent escape. For her part, she’s still in love with Alex and not ready to move on but as we know, sometimes the heart doesn’t cooperate. Julian grows on her the more he opens up about his past; how his older brother was infected and rebelled against their father, eventually losing his life. We see Lena experiencing almost the exact same things she did with Alex, but as a role reversal. Her, now the one showing Julian that life without love and emotion is not worth living.
I wanted to like Julian, and truthfully, I do. He’s a great guy. Smart, sweet, considerate. Normally a character I’d be all about. I’m just not sold on him being a love interest for Lena. He’s too innocent for the new person she has made herself into since losing Alex. They don’t mesh. I’m sure he’s fully capable of stepping up and will go through his own version of transformation in Requiem but for now, he’s just too soft. I didn’t feel the chemistry like I did when she was with Alex and I have no problem admitting that I’m fully and completely a #TeamAlex chick. I mean come on, the dude field dressed her leg when she was bit by that dog and took a bullet for her when they were trying to escape.
I think it was this forced (to me) emotional dynamic and the timeline bouncing that made me not like this one as much as the first book. Even the two major plot twists at the end (which I was all GASP!! and EEK!!! for one of them) couldn’t save my overall feeling of the storyline. I walked away feeling “meh” at best. So ultimately I gave this 3 Stars. Not amazing but not horrible either. Just… There. I do plan on picking up the third and final one in the series, Requiem, just to see where Oliver takes that final scene. So stay tuned!