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.
Oh, Lauren Oliver, what have you done?
I need to start this review telling you that I was dying to read Pandemonium from the minute I—sobbing—finished reading Delirium. I just couldn’t wait to get it, and it was a long wait. However, I’m just not sure it was all worthy. It’s been over a month I’ve finished reading it and I’m still not over it.
We start Pandemonium with Lena in the Wilds, almost dead. She’s been infected by amor deliria nervosa and she has barely survived her escape, but she is sure Alex didn’t make it. Luckily, she’s rescued by a group of invalids commanded by Raven. Soon, Lena learns how the group lives and needs to start working to help them out. She becomes fond of these people who helped her when she needed the most.
The chapters are alternate between 2 different times: the time when Lena was in the Wild with Raven’s group and a time later than the first one, where Lena is in New York City, infiltrated in the Deliria Free America (DFA) organization. The DFA advocates that amor deliria nervosa is a dangerous disease and people should be cured earlier than they are nowadays, that the disease is disgusting and will eat you away. It’s at a DFA meeting that Lena learns the story of Julian Fineman, son of Thomas Fineman, the man heading the organization. Julian had fought against brain cancer and because of all the surgeries he’s been through the doctors don’t recommend him to have the cure procedure. However, he’d rather die during the procedure than living with deliria.
When I finished reading Delirium I was affraid that Oliver would make 2 clichés in this story that would ruin it all for me. I won’t tell you what these 2 things are, though, because, unfortunately, she’s done them both, so I’m not going to ruin it to you giving away spoilers. I must say, however, that I loved to see Lena in the Wilds, I was always curious to really see how life in the Wilds would be—and who cannot fall in love with little Blue? I did not cry my eyes out as I did with Delirium, but I did read it all at once like I did with the first book. This series is a touching tale about love and how you overcome what it brings to our lives, the consequences of our actions and how we have to move on.
I have a bittersweet feeling about this series now. I’m not looking forward to Requiem, but at the same time I have hopes that Lauren will surprise me—for the good, this time!
My favorite quotes on this book are bellow.
Love, the deadliest of all deadly things.
Love, it kills you.
Both when you have it…
And when you don’t.
I can’t even cry. My insides have been turned to dust.
“Everything you were, the life you had, the people you knew… dust.” She shakes her head and says, a little more firmly, “There is no before. There is only now, and what comes next.”
The animals are on the other side of the fence: monsters wearing uniforms. They speak softly and tell lies, and smile as they’re slitting your throat.
And then I think I really might cry: Never in my whole life has anything tasted this good.
If you’re smart, you care. And if you care, you love.
Grief is like sinking, like being buried. I am in water the tawny color of kicked-up dirt. Every breath is full of choking. There is nothing to hold on to, no sides, no way to claw myself up. There is nothing to do but let go.
Let go. Feel the weight all around you, feel the squeezing of your lungs, the slow, low pressure. Let yourself go deeper. There is nothing but bottom. There is nothing but the taste of metal, and the echoes of old things, and days that look like darkness.
This is the girl I am now. My future is here, in this city, full of icicles dangling like daggers getting ready to drop.
Droplets, droplets: We are all identical drips and drops of people, hovering, waiting to be tipped, waiting for someone to show us the way, to pour us down a path.
His eyes are a swirl of blue and green and gold, like the surface of the ocean on a sunny day, and behind the flatness, the practiced calm, I think I see something flashing there—an expression that is gone before I can find a name for it.
We are such small, stupid things. For most of my life I thought of nature as the stupid thing: blind, animal, destructive. We, the humans, were clean and smart and in control; we had wrestled the rest of the world into submission, battered it down, pinned it to a glass slide and the pages of The Book of Shhh.
It’s not until the following morning that I realize what day it is: September 26.
Hana was cured yesterday.
Hana is gone.
A world without love is also a world without stakes.
When I’m running, there’s always this split second when the pain is ripping through me and I can hardly breathe and all I can see is color and blur—and in that split second, right as the pain crests, and becomes too much, and there’s a whiteness going through me, I see something to my left, a flicker of color (auburn hair, burning, a crown of leaves)—and I know then, too, that if I only turn my head he’ll be there, laughing, watching me, holding out his arms.
I don’t ever turn my head to look, of course. But one day I will. One day I will, and he’ll be back, and everything will be okay.
And until then: I run.
Old words; words that nearly brought me to my knees.
Live free or die.
Four words. Thirteen letters. Ridges, bumps, swirls under my fingertips.
Another story. We cling tightly to it, and our belief turns it to truth.
I am in a nightmare. I am in the past. This isn’t happening.
The priests and the scientists are right about one thing: At our heart, at our base, we are no better than animals.
If you take, we will take back. Steal from us, and we will rob you blind. When you squeeze, we will hit.
This is the way the world is made now.
“I don’t like that smell,” Julian says quietly. If he were less well trained, and less careful, he would say hate. But he can’t say it; it is too close to passion, and passion is too close to love, and love is amor deliria nervosa, the deadliest of all deadly things: It is the reason for the games of pretend, for the secret selves, for the spasms in the throat.
In approved places, every story serves a purpose. But forbidden books are so much more. Some of them are webs; you can feel your way along their threads, but just barely, into strange and dark corners. Some of them are balloons bobbing up through the sky: totally self-contained, and unreachable, but beautiful to watch.
And some of them—the best ones—are doors.
The world is upside down and everything is shit and my life has been cleaved and there are two different Lenas running parallel to each other, the old and the new, and they will never, ever be whole again.
I wonder if this is how people always get close: They heal each other’s wounds; they repair the broken skin.
And strangely, what strikes me then—in that exact second, as I know with solid certainty that I am going to die—is that all the kisses I have ever had are behind me. The deliria, the pain, all the trouble it has caused, everything we have been fighting for: for me it is done, washed away on the tide of my life.
“They’d already taken her from me once,” he says quietly. “I didn’t want to lose her again.”
I have the urge to lay my hand on his shoulder and say, I understand. But the words seem stupid. We can never understand. We can only try, fumbling our way through the tunneled places, reaching for light.
“I am real,” I say, and the electricity is an itch, a nervous jumping under my skin. I feel too exposed. It is too bright, and too quiet.
Because I do want. I’m not even sure what, exactly, but the want is there, just like the hate and anger were there before. But this is not a tower. It is an endless, tunneling pit; it drives deep, and opens a hole inside me.
And maybe someday I will see him again. Maybe there really is a heaven after death. And maybe it’s open to everyone, not just the cured.
But for now, the future, like the past, means nothing. For now, there is only a homestead built of trash and scraps, at the edge of a broken city, just beyond a towering city dump; and our arrival—hungry, and half-frozen, to a place of food and water, and walls that keep out the brutal winds. This, for us, is heaven.
For the first time since Alex died, I have found my way to a truly free space: a space unbounded by walls and uninhibited by fear. This is flying.
I feel a sharp stab of sadness. I have had to give up so much, so many selves and lives already. I have grown up and out of the rubble of my old lives, of the things and people I have cared for: My mom. Grace. Hana. Alex.
That’s when it really hits me, the certainty like a concrete wall going up inside me. This is not what I wanted. This is not why I came to the Wilds, why Alex wanted me to come: not to turn my back and bury the people I care about, and build myself hard and careless on top of their bodies, as Raven does. That is what the Zombies do.
Really, there is only one thing I want to say, and just thinking of it makes my heart speed up: Why, why, why? Why did you let them take you? Why did you let me think you were dead? Why didn’t you come for me?
Why didn’t you love me more?
Once you let in the word, once you allow it to take root, it will spread like a mold through all of your corners and dark spaces—and with it, the questions, the shivery, splintered fears, enough to keep you permanently awake.
No one can tell us no. No one can make us stop. We have picked each other, and the rest of the world can go to hell.