In the future, the United States has closed off its borders. Love has been declared a disease and the root of all evil. Amor deliria nervosa is the “deadliest of all deadly things.” Boys and girls are under strict segregation policies most of the time until the cure can be safely administered. “The cured, incapable of strong desire, are thus rid of both remembered and future pain.” One cannot be cured until they reach their eighteenth birthday. Until then, one must be extra diligent not to succumb to the disease.
For Lena, her eighteenth birthday cannot come soon enough. An orphan since the age of six, Lena has lived with her aunt and uncle since her mother’s refusal to receive the cure for a fourth time and subsequent suicide. Lena walks a fine line in life, stay out of trouble, receive the cure and live her life. With her graduation looming on the horizon, Lena and her best friend Hana go to the labs for their Evaluations. Evaluation Day is the exciting rite of passage that prepares you for a future of happiness, stability and partnership.” Lena’s Aunt Carol has prepped her for years in saying the right things to get a good score and a better future. Lena’s nerves get the best of her during the Evaluation and her hopes for a good score are dashed until a disruptive demonstrative takes place in Lena’s Evaluation room. It seems the Invalids who live in the Wilds turn loose a trailer of cows in the lab facility to make a point. In the chaos, Lena notices a young boy grinning at her from the observation deck. All Evaluations are nullified and Lena breathes a sigh of relief.
Lena and Hana are distance runners. One day Hana decides they should look around the labs and see how the cows got in. Soon they run into a young guard named Alex and Lena realizes he is the same boy from the observation deck of her failed Evaluation. He claims not to know what she is talking about but Lena soon realizes he does. Alex does give Lena a cryptic message to meet him at the beach later that night but once she gets there, he is a no show. Later on Lena goes to Hana’s house and hears her listening to illegal music. Hana begs her to come to an unapproved party but straight-laced Lena refuses to go. Hana tells her she won’t end up like her mother, Lena’s greatest fear. After bed, Lena begins to question her decision and sneaks out to the party.
After finding Hana at the party, Lena soon realizes her mistake and turns to go home. On her way back to her bike, she encounters Alex once again. Lena questions him again about his appearance during her Evaluation, but is shocked when he asks why she didn’t meet him at the beach. Alex then tells Lena that he has noticed her for months on her runs and she just hasn’t noticed him. Soon they are dancing. Alex asks if Lena will meet him the next day and she agrees.
Soon Lena realizes that she is catching amor deliria nervosa or falling in love with Alex. She begins to question everything she knows. Is the cure all that the government leads its citizens to believe or is the joy and heartbreak of love and pain worth the risk? Only Lena can decide where her path will lead her.
Lena’s story will be continued in Pandemonium in 2012 and Requiem in 2013.
Lauren Oliver's descriptions are vivid and her writing make this a worthwhile read even if you are not interested in the subject matter. For those who are, one will throughly enjoy this cross between Matched by Ally Condie and Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series.
Visit Lauren Oliver's website.