Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I didn't love Delirium. I was a little hesitant about Pandemonium. I'll ruin the suspense right now. I loved it. I really did.
Let's start at the beginning. Which is the end of Delirium. Lena has escaped the controlled and emotionally dead world of Portland, Maine. But Lena is not emotionally dead. She is devastated. She and Alex made the escape attempt together. Alex ended up bloody and still. After a few days, Lena ends up alone and mostly dead. Then she is found and joins a commune of Invalids - others who do not believe in the cure. They live illegally and try to stay under the radar.
The old Lena is erased from Society. Lena allows this person that existed as herself die, too. Her life "before" is irrelevant. There is only now and survival.
Speaking of time periods, this is where I believe Oliver is brilliant. The chapters alternate between then and now. Then begins as Lena's life in the wild begins. "Now" begins as she is sitting in an all-girls school in Manhatten. The genius of this is linking the two time periods with some element that seamlessly drives the story; an idea, a location, a person, a movement, an experience. It is so very well executed. In both "then" and "now," the characters and relationships evolve and develop naturally and endearingly. New players are introduced the way a new person enters life. You know little about them, spend time with them, learn to love them or hate them.
Without giving too much of a spoiler, evidently there are many who do not agree with the cure. There are those who live in the Wild. There are also those in the Resistance who are actively working against the government. There are also people that wreak anarchy - mostly people the cure did not cure but imbalanced.
So the story of "then" is Lena's integration into the commune under a very young, experienced, and emotionally tired Raven. She learns the rules of the commune and the wild. She sees the reality of life without modern medicine or availability of food. She develops ties to the commune. She laughs and she grieves.
"Now" is Lena returned to a city with a new identity, pretending to be cured, complete with a scar. It is a carefully calculated part of the Resistance Movement which she and Raven are now a part of. Again, a gift by Oliver is that she keeps both time periods equally interesting and action packed, equally sprinkling cliff hangers at the end of chapters to keep the reader from skipping ahead. Both stories are compelling. Both stories are packed with action, grief, attachments, blood, and character depth. Then and Now is threaded together by location when Then ends and there is only Now.
I can tell you that I honestly did not know how it would end. I can also tell you that the last few chapters presented some nail biting moments and unexpected developments. The ending was satisfying in many ways but an absolute cliff hanger.
You will love it.
I can't wait for the next book.