Monday, February 27, 2012

Love and Dystopia

Teen titles with similar themes: One is the second book by Lauren Oliver, and the other is the first book of a planned trilogy by Ally Condie. Each book is set in a future society in which rigid rules govern how people interact and how they live out their lives, but each book has a different center around which they evolved.

In Delirium, by Lauren Oliver, love is considered the most deadly of deadly things: it kills you both when you have it and when you don't. The Consortium has done its best to obliterate both the emotions and outcomes of love, which is thought of as an actual disease, labeled amor deliria nervosa; at age 18, everyone goes through a "procedure" to remove the disease from their mind. After the procedure, the personality becomes calm and even, with no highs or lows, and everyone does their duty and fits into their role. Lena is anxious to get the procedure over with, so she can start feeling secure; her own mother had the procedure performed four times (it didn't work), and eventually committed suicide, so Lena is particularly fearful of the effects of deliria in her own gene pool. Before she reaches her operation date, however, she meets Alex, a dashing, handsome and kind Invalid (not invalid as in "ill and resting on the sofa" but as in "this identification card is invalid") who, of course, reveals the ugly underside of this supposedly perfectly regulated world and tempts her to be a rule-breaker and follow her heart.

In Matched, by Ally Condie, love is tolerated, but waste is not: Society has been remade to eliminate excess, the random factors that cause the depletion of world resources to the harm of humankind. A central government dictates what work you will do, what you will wear, what entertainments you may pursue, who you will marry, and even when you will die. Everything is supposedly equally optimal for all members of society, who want to be good citizens for the betterment of everyone. Cassia is 17, about to be matched with her future husband--only when she puts her microcard into her portscreen, she gets two matches instead of one! Officials assure her that a mistake has been made and her true match is her best friend, Xander, who she loves; but her attention can't help being drawn to the second match, Ky, who is careful on the surface to appear perfectly cooperative but who harbors the soul of an artist and a poet, which he gradually reveals to Cassia. I particularly loved how the author quoted the poetry of Dylan Thomas to influence Cassia.

Oliver's first book was Before I Fall. Condie (right) previously wrote the Yearbook trilogy; the next sequel to Matched (Crossed) is on the "NEW" shelves in the YA section!

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