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Literature / Delirium Series

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This is a series of Young Adult Dystopian novels by Lauren Oliver. The first book was published in January 2011, and the sequel, Pandemonium, was released on February 28, 2012. The third and final book, Requiem, was released in Spring 2013.

Then there's the Protagonist Title stories, and the Book of Ssh.

The story is set 20 Minutes into the Future, in a version of America where love has been officially diagnosed as a mental illness, amor deliria nervosa, and every citizen is "cured" by an operation at the age of eighteen. Lena Haloway is eager for the procedure, having even more reason to be afraid of love than the average citizen, but then of course she meets a handsome young man — can you see where this is going?

The series was made into a film starring Emma Roberts which was made available on Hulu in June 2014.

This series contains the following tropes:

  • Big Applesauce: Half of Pandemonium is set in a severely "cured", colorless New York.
  • Big Bad: Fred Hargrove. Turns out he's been working with the government to undermine the resistance, killed his father and is intending to impose a horrible, strict rule on the country, including taking people's heat/power/water away if they show any resistance, or just to keep people in line.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Everyone is under constant surveillance, even in their own homes. Regulators and other enforcers of the Police State are told to watch for any behaviors indicative of "amor deliria nervosa."
  • The Bluebeard: Fred, Hana's husband-to-be. He had one wife committed for discovering the truth of what he'd done - killed his father and worked with the government to destroy the rebels, and it's implied he's done it several other times.
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: At eighteen, everyone gets a list of four potential matches to choose from.
  • Chained to a Bed: Lena by her family after they find out that she has fallen in love/been infected with "amor deliria nervosa." They even drug her with tranquilizers to make the job easier.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Much is made about how curing people of the ability to love has increased social stability, but over the course of the book, many things are exposed that are wrong with the society that Lena lives in.
  • Culture Police: Dancing, poetry, certain types of music, loud laughter and public displays of affection are all banned.
  • Cute Mute: Gracie, too traumatized to speak except in her sleep, and then only the word "Mommy".
  • Cynical Mentor: Raven and Tack. They arrange for Lena and Julian to be kidnapped together, so that Julian will bond with her and be discredited as a symbol of the DFA. The fact that his father will literally kill him is considered a necessary price to pay.
  • Dangerous 16th Birthday: Everybody gets the procedure done at age 18.
  • Double Standard: If two "uncureds" of the opposite sex fall in love and get involved with each other, they're merely considered to have "amor deliria nervosa" and it's bad because it's considered an unnatural version of the usual husband-wife relationships. If the two "uncureds" are of the same sex, though, their behavior is labeled as "Unnaturalism."
  • Driven to Suicide: Lena's mother. When not even three operations managed to erase her love and grief over her dead husband, she dived off a cliff into the ocean. At least that's what Lena has been told.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Lena's whole family, basically.
  • Dystopian Edict: The entire prohibition on love is basically this.
  • The Evils of Free Will: The book starts with Lena about to be evaluated, mentally and physically, by a team of civil servants who will determine which career she is suited for and what sort of boy she should marry (she'll have to choose from among four boys).
  • Fascists' Bed Time: A curfew is imposed on "uncureds" for the dual purpose of adding appeal to "the procedure" and for prevention of any illicit gatherings between lovers.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: An entire society where love is outlawed. Did they really think it would work out as planned?
  • For Your Own Good: Lena's family, trying to force her to be cured.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The Safety, Health and Happiness Handbook, practically a second Bible to this culture, is nicknamed The Book of Shhh. Hana calls the Controlled Information Department the "Corrupt Idiots Department".
    • In the sequel, there's "Correction, Regulation And Prevention". Check the initials.
  • Future Imperfect: Many stories in The Bible are twisted to accommodate the belief that love is a disease. For example, the story of Mary Magdalena is twisted into an anti-love story.
  • Great Escape:
    • Both Mrs. Haloway and, with Alex's help, Lena herself escaping from her own home just before she's "cured".
    • In Pandemonium, Lena and Julian escape from the Scavengers.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • It's insisting that Lena climb the border fence ahead of him that causes Alex to be shot by the guards.
    • Raven for Pippa, in the third book.
  • Hobbes Was Right: The official stance of the government.
    "Humans, unregulated, are cruel and capricious; violent and selfish; miserable and quarrelsome. It is only after their instincts and basic emotions have been controlled that they can be happy, generous and good."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: One-Word Title style.
  • It Runs in the Family: Everyone believes this about the "deliria", which makes Lena's family somewhat unpopular considering what happened to her mother the alleged suicide who's actually a prisoner, and her cousin Marcia's husband, a convicted Sympathizer. Lena herself feels this way at first.
  • Kick the Dog: Almost literally. Lena's next door neighbour's dog is savagely beaten by police officers during a raid, and Lena finds him dying in the street.
  • La Résistance:
    • The Invalids, groups of un-cured people hiding out in the wilderness between the strictly guarded cities. They occasionally pull pranks, such as sending a herd of cows into a hospital (to imply that all the compliant citizens are mindless cattle) and have a network of spies and sympathizers in the cities. Government propaganda, of course, treats them as Always Chaotic Evil; there's even a children's rhyme that compares Invalids to vampires and werewolves.
    • Lena joins them in the sequel.
  • Lack of Empathy: Leads to horror when Lena matter-of-factly mentions that after the "cure", some people can get so emotionally detached that they'll kill their own children.
  • Lost Common Knowledge: Lena does not know what poetry is.
  • Love Triangle:
    • It's been set up for the third novel, Requiem, between Julian and Alex.
    • Turns into a Love Dodecahedron with the addition of Coral, a rebel girl who seems to have fallen for Alex. At the end of the third book, Alex and Lena reconcile, but Lena realizes she also loves Julian, who loves her back.
  • Mad Dictator's Handsome Son: Julian. Mr. Fineman isn't technically a dictator, but he's powerful and certainly mad enough.
  • The Masquerade:
    • Alex, an Invalid, has a scar on his neck to pass for cured and works as a security guard at the hospital. At one point he uses this persona to let Lena into the prison where her mother was once kept, pretending she's a troublemaker he is frightening into compliance with a prison tour.
    • Lena does this in the sequel, pretending to be a Cured so she can assist the resistance.
  • Meaningful Name: Lena has one, and most of the Invalids encountered are named for some part of their appearance or personality.
  • Naïve Everygirl: Lena presents herself as this.
  • Nephewism: Lena is raised by her aunt and uncle.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: After finding out about how Julian was set up to be "infected", captured and killed in order to tarnish the image of his father's "Deliria-Free America" organization, a furious Lena accuses Raven of being just as callous and inhuman as the Cureds.
  • One-Word Title: The Idiosyncratic Episode Naming for each book.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Gracie speaks near the end of the novel, everyone takes notice.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Lena, Gracie and Alex.
  • Plagued by Nightmares: Lena and her little cousin Gracie, who have both lost their mothers, are plagued by recurring nightmares about their deaths.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: In-universe, a(n officially) nonromantic version. Hana and Lena use their Portmanteau Friendship Name, "Halena", to pump each other up before races and exams.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: The online-exclusive novella, Hana, retells parts of Delirium from Hana's perspective. It includes The Reveal that Hana was the one who alerted the authorities to Alex and Lena's relationship.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Hana tries to convince Lena to sneak out to an illegal party with her. They get into an intense argument, and when Hana puts her finger on the problem (that Lena is afraid of being like her mother), Lena fires two F-bombs, runs away, and sets out to prove her friend wrong.
  • Propaganda Machine: All those "love is evil" texts quoted at the beginning of each chapter.
  • Room Full of Crazy: When Lena and Alex visit the Crypts, the combined maximum-security prison and mental institution, they find Lena's mother's empty room with LOVE written all over the walls along with a keepsake from Lena's father.
  • Run for the Border: Alex and Lena. She makes it out; he doesn't.
  • Scenery Porn: Who wouldn't want to visit Portland, Maine (that is, the present-day democratic one) after reading this novel?
  • Scrapbook Story: Each chapter of the first book begins with a children's rhyme or a quote from a historical, medical or religious textbook from Lena's world. Some of them are quite bizarre, such as the rhyming Periodic Table, or the skewed Biblical myths that present Mary Magdalene and Joseph as separated lovers.
  • Sickly Neurotic Geek: Brian Scharff, although he does have a brief sympathetic moment. He's skinny, unattractive, a Momma's Boy and allergic to practically everything.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Not that Lena seeks him at first, but Alex is really very sweet for an Invalid.
  • Shout-Out: Lena has a fondness for Romeo and Juliet; even though it is taught as a cautionary tale. Later on, Alex quotes Shakespeare's sonnets to her and, never having heard poetry before, she positively melts. Lauren Oliver has stated that Delirium is "a riff on Romeo and Juliet in a dystopian world".
  • Stepford Smiler: Everyone over eighteen as a result of the cure.
  • Theme Tune: Written and performed by a David J. DeSmyter.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Who in the hell was the "genius" who thought outlawing love was a good idea anyway?
  • Turn Out Like Her Mother: Lena is mortally afraid of turning out like her mother — at first, anyway.
  • Twist Ending:
    • Alex getting shot, arrested and possibly killed.
    • And Averted in the sequel, where Alex shows up alive at the end. Really, who didn't see that coming?
    • And in the third, who didn't guess that it was Hana who betrayed Lena, Lena's mother was still alive and that Alex and Lena would get back together?
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The reasoning for curing every citizen of the ability to love as soon as they turn eighteen and sometimes even before that. This is deconstructed over the course of the novel as more social flaws are exposed.
  • The Voiceless: Grace, Lena's cousin is nearly mute in the first book, with Lena only hearing her say "Mommy" at night and "Wait", which she says in order to distract everyone and save Lena, but by the third book she's able to say a few more sentences.
  • Wham Line: In Hana: "I'm sorry, Lena."
  • Wham Shot: In the second book, Lena discovering her mother is alive , and Alex's return to the group.
  • Wild Teen Party: They're illegal, but they happen anyway.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": The massacre that was supposed to wipe out all Invalids two generations ago is called the "Great Sanitation", otherwise known as "the blitz".
  • You Are Number 6: At one point, Lena is helped by a mysterious masked woman with a numbered prison tattoo on her neck. Later in Mr. Fineman's hidden study, she finds a record of prisoners and matches the numbers to a name - her own mother's.