I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing.
They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.
But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love. (source)
For my internship, one of my projects is to lead a teen book group. This is one of my favorite things that I've been working on; the members of the group are some really awesome middle school aged girls who love to read. Their enthusiasm never fails to put a smile on my face, and I genuinely look forward to meeting with them! They really love dystopia YA novels (huge shock there, considering the age group, right?), and this was the book that they chose for our May meeting next week. I'd actually been wanting to read this for a while - I've seen a lot of buzz about it and I was curious. I'm glad that these girls gave me the push I needed to get around to reading it!
I think the premise for this book is really intriguing. In this take on future American society, love has been identified as the primary cause of pretty much all problems, and so scientists have developed a procedure that all citizens must undergo to prevent them from loving one another. And to be clear, this is ALL love, not just the romantic variety - even love for family members is forbidden. The vast majority of society is in agreement that this is for the best... but of course, there are those who are against the practice.
I'm not sure if my dissatisfaction with this book stems from being bored of the dystopia genre, or genuinely feeling that this book didn't live up to its full potential. On the one hand, often it feels as though every YA novel out there is a dystopia - I actually had a mom at the library ask me today if there are books written for teens that aren't dystopias. She wasn't being facetious, either. And I completely understand why she'd think that, because there are SO MANY dystopias out there lately! I'm definitely getting bored of them; they really have to wow me for me to love them at this point. But I do still think that this book could've been so much better.
First off, the main character, Lena, annoyed me at least half of the time. She's not exactly the brightest character that I've ever encountered, and sometimes her inability to realize certain things were going on frustrated me. I also think it took her entirely too long to question the whole "cured from love" concept. Her wishy-washiness about the subject got old pretty fast. I think Oliver was trying to account for the fact that Lena (and almost every other character) had been brainwashed into thinking that the cure was a good thing, but it made the plot drag.
I also think that there were certain characters who could have been SO interesting if they had been further developed, but Oliver only took them so far, which was to the novel's detriment. I was especially intrigued by Hana, Lena's best friend who actually does question things from the very beginning, and Gracie, Lena's cousin's daughter who has had some very traumatic experiences in her life - I think her story would have been so interesting to delve into, but Oliver never really does. It's possible that these characters are further developed in later novels in the series, but I think that their storylines could have been more fleshed out in this one - especially if we could've skipped over some of Lena's ramblings. I also would've liked to have seen more done with Alex. He, too, had great potential to be an interesting character, but his only interests, apparently, are resisting the cure/the government and Lena. Yawn... while these may be the only aspects of his personality that are crucial to the plotline, more development would have been beneficial.
I will say that I really enjoyed the ending. While I did see it coming from a mile away (as was also the case with most of the other "bombshells" that Oliver tried to drop), the way that Oliver wrote the ending was exciting and fast-paced. It made me want to pick up book two right away, despite my critiques of this book. I don't think it's likely that I'll move on to the rest of the series for some time, but eventually I think I would like to see what happens.
Ultimately, this is a decent representative of the dystopian sub-genre of YA fiction. It's not superbly written and feels a lot like most of the other YA dystopian novels out there -- but this is true of most YA dystopian novels. I feel confident that teens, especially teen girls, will enjoy this book, even though I didn't think it was anything spectacular. I also didn't think it was particularly bad, despite all of the negativity found in this review. It held my interest while I was reading it, it was fairly fast-paced, and the basic plot was pretty clever. However, I do stand by my assertion that this book could've been much better, and I'm disappointed that it didn't live up to its potential. I imagine that many adult readers will feel the same way.