Book Description (From Amazon):
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.
Soundtrack: “Down with the Sickness”- Disturbed/Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine
I couldn’t decide between these two different arrangements- the original version fits the new gritty feel of this installment, but it tickles me to death imagining the Richard Cheese version playing in the background of a DFA meeting, as suits mingle and talk about how much better their life is since being “cured.”
I’m typically not a fan of the second installment in a trilogy. If not done well, they have a distinct “placeholder” feeling. They’re not necessarily meant to be a stand alone story, but just to advance the action to a point where the author is ready to bring out the big guns and wrap everything up. In Tolkein’s “The Two Towers,” for example, we’re given a great epic battle at Helm’s Deep, but when the book concludes everyone is still scattered to the four winds. Aragorn still isn’t king, the Hobbits have been spending far too much time talking to trees and Frodo is hanging out in the basement listening to The Cure and writing bad poetry. Er… still bring the ring to Mordor. That’s what I meant to say.
Mentally, I told Lauren Oliver that she’d better be willing to deliver an awesome story if she wanted to keep me on the hook until February of 2013 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) when “Requiem” comes out. Especially since I had JUST finished reading “The Fault in our Stars.” What do you attempt to tackle after that book? Seriously?! Apparently, she gave me a cool thumbs up, and said “I got this.”
“Pandemonium” picks up in the immediate aftermath of “Delirium”. What caught my attention immediately was that Oliver chose to write this novel with parallel narratives- we get the tale of what Lena is doing in the present, interspersed with flashbacks of her first difficult weeks living in the Wilds. The flashbacks aren’t random, they’re as linear as the primary narrative, making for interesting symmetry in the plot.
In all honesty, it feels as if you’re reading about two separate Lenas for much of the story- the Lena who is coming to grips with the fact that Alex sacrificed himself for her and accepting that if she is going to survive it’s going to be entirely on her own merit- and the present day Lena- a mostly cool-headed member of the Resistance who is following her instructions without question. Until everything goes haywire, that is. We see both Lenas in a struggle to survive: one is adapting to the harshness of a life where not even your basic needs are guaranteed, and one using her newfound survival skills to get herself out of a seemingly impossible situation.
Another thing that speaks highly to Oliver’s talent as a writer is the level of attachment she creates for her characters. When the novel started, I couldn’t fathom how Lena was going to go on without Alex. Then we’re introduced to Julian, who is the son of the leader of the DFA (an organization promoting a “Delirium Free America”). He seems to be the total opposite of Alex, and my brain totally rebelled when the two characters were thrown together. I absolutely dreaded the thought of Lena “pulling a Bella” and finding a rebound guy, as hunky or werewolfy as he might be.
Part of the fun of this series is observing Lena’s evolution as a character. We see her grow from the naïve girl desperately waiting for her cure, to the blush of first love, to toughened survivor, and we like her equally in each role. I really don’t know how I’m going to be able to wait until 2013 to hear the conclusion of her story.