Book Review: Pandemonium
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.
I’ll admit, as a HUGE fan of Lauren Oliver’s BEFORE I FALL, I was a bit disappointed when I read her second YA book, DELIRIUM. While I had difficulty getting through the vast majority of that book, the final chapter did provide a nice look at what its follow up, PANDEMONIUM, would potentially have to offer. Even still, due to the snooze-fest that was Delirium, I started Pandemonium with very, very low expectations – hold on to only the slightest of hopes that it would match the genius that was Before I Fall. Suffice to say, the book and its story rose above and beyond my wildest hopes. I LOVED every bit of Pandemonium. Her second venture into the world of amor delira nervosa once again places Lauren Oliver near the top of my list of favorite YA authors.
One could say that Pandemonium takes off right where Delirium left us, Lena is lost and alone in the Wilds. But then you move on to chapter two and realize that you have just jumped ahead from “then”, the time when Lena in the Wilds, to “now”, events occurring approximately 6 months in the future after Lena has spent some time in the Wilds. I fully appreciated these two time frames being told parallel to each other, from one chapter to the next, because it provided additional character growth and exposition, as well as a heightened sense of action, story development and the impact that the story has on the reader.
In this installment we learn quite a bit about the people who live in the Wilds, how Lena handles the events that occurred at the end of Delirium, as well as what happens to her after. So much happens in this book, that to say more would just spoil what’s in store for you. Just know that by the end of this book, Lena will be a different character entirely and you will have learned quite a bit about the world in which she lives.
While I was actually somewhat bored by all the characters in Delirium, Lena and Alex included, I cannot say the same about the characters in this book. I now have grown to LOVE Lena thanks to Pandemonium, and I felt her anguish, confusion and pain every step of the way. I would say that, as far as character growth goes, Lena’s is one of the best examples of what you should see in fiction. Every event that she is put through alters her in some way, she makes choices and has to live with the consequences, and she knows there is no returning to who she was in Delirium.
There are also a number of secondary characters introduced in this book and each of them has a story to tell. The exposition of these characters is superb, and again the use of the “then” and “now” accounts for a lot in how you feel about them. I loved them all, yes, every single one of them. Well, except for one group of people that we learn about, but the reasons for that is for you to find out yourself.
Yay! Lena is finally in the Wilds! And what a much more interesting place it is to see than the Valid cities. We learn about the poor living conditions that the Invalids are forced into, migrating from place to place, just to stay safe and unseen. We are taken on a trip in the Wilds during the winter, where I felt the bitter cold along with Lena. We also return to the world of the Valids, only this time in NYC. I appreciate all the information Lauren provided us about the world in this installment. By providing us with more background/world information, she moves the story forward quite a bit. Also, this novel is much darker than Delirium in both mood/tone and setting; the setting appropriately plays a big part in this.
There is something to be said about a book that is, essentially, telling two stories in one, while at the very same time managing to keep the pacing of the overall story on track. Pandemonium accomplishes telling two stories: One is about Lena and her very first experiences in the Wilds. In this story you join her as she adapts to her strange, new world. And the other is about Lena and her experiences as a “new” Lena. In this story she is part of an Invalid mission inside New York City. One of these stories is told slowly while the other one races through time at breakneck speed. Some may be jarred by the jumping back and forward between “then” and “now”, but I found it rather enjoyable. In my opinion, and in contrast to Delirium, there is never a dull moment in Pandemonium.
I don’t need to repeat what I just said above about pacing. I will only add that along with the two stories being told about “then” and “now”, these individual time periods are woven together and plotted in such a way that common themes are shared between the two at the same time in the book. This (IMO) makes the transition back and forth between the two time periods more seamless and allows the story to have greater impact on the reader. I really can’t go on about how ingenious it was for Lauren to tell her tale in such a way. I only took one point off for the occasional use of foul language in this book. Oh my. Lena! Watch your mouth! (Yay! Prudish mommy strikes again!)
I am so grateful to Fire and Ice for allowing me to be part of their ARC Tour for Pandemonium. If it were not for their tour I may not have given Pandemonium a try. What a wonderful adventure I would have missed if I had passed this one up! Lauren Oliver, you are most definitely back on my A-list!
Posted on February 16, 2012, in Book Review, Four & 1/2 Star and tagged ARC Tour, Book Review, Dystopian, Four and a Half Stars, Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium, YA, Young Adult. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.