May 26, 2013: I'm updating this after having read Requiem about 2 months ago. And I downgraded my rating from 4 stars to 2.
I think this is a book that requires some thought before review. I was so excited for it; I got it the day it came out and listened to the audio in one sitting. Stayed up all night. I adored Delirium, liked Pandemonium (as a middle book it was ok), and thought I would love Requiem. But after some time to think about it - I have to say that it 1-is a complete and utter letdown, and 2-is passable at best.
Let me clarify one thing here: Lauren Oliver is a lovely person and a wonderful writer. The way she writes is beautiful. I can only say good things about that. I really liked Before I Fall, her first novel.
Having said that, my problem here is the story. This was really the first series I read in this YA genre. Since then, I've had the pleasure of several 3-part series books. Every single one has had a great ending save one, and even that one wasn't as bad as this one. That's why I'm updating this review. Now I have a basis for comparison.
I want to be careful here because writing is so subjective. But authors write so that people will read their stories. As such, I believe they have a responsibility to meet the expectations of their readers. And I think it's fair to say that in this particular series, we all hoped for a positive resolution to the love story. After all, wasn't love what the whole thing was about?
The more I think about it, the more I feel betrayed as a reader. Delirium was wonderful. But the continuation of the plot in the succeeding two books was terrible. There was no ending, no resolution of the story. It is a complete letdown. Characters don't behave in a believable manner and even become people we dislike. Horrible things happen to good people. None of the side characters talk sense into the main ones. The entire thing was just one long study in frustration for me, wanting to yell at them to wise up. When an author brings out that emotion in a reader, there needs to be a huge payoff in the end. And this ending was terrible, terrible, terrible.
So read Delirium and enjoy it and just do yourself a favor -- stop there.
(Having read the short story at the end of the book, from Alex's POV): Another short story to add to the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver, which is only available in the hardcover edition of Requiem. It gives some background as to Alex's childhood, which was insightful. There was also a glimpse into his time in the Crypts, and his escape. I never really felt I knew enough about Alex in this series. But that had to do with background, which is what this story solves. Alex was fabulous because he taught Lena to fall in love. Everything beyond that was just the icing on the cake.
My review after having finished it 5 minutes prior: She found him and he found her through it all. I am undone.
Now, the next day, I've had time to think about it. My review now:Ok, it wasn't perfect, but it was still fabulous.
I was afraid to read this book, because I love these characters like they are people in my family. I feel such an emotional connection to them, and I think that's because of the first book, [b:Delirium|11614718|Delirium (Delirium, #1)|Lauren Oliver|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327890411s/11614718.jpg|10342808]. In Delirium, we meet Lena and Alex and watch them fall in love. His tenderness with her makes us all swoon. The cliffhanger ending nearly killed us all. And of course the writing is such a pleasure to read (or if you're me, listening to Sarah Drew is the pleasure).
And in my opinion, Delirium is the best book in the series. I've read it over and over.
I made sure to re-read [b:Pandemonium|9593911|Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)|Lauren Oliver|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1310371414s/9593911.jpg|14480923] right before I read Requiem. I wanted to get all the details clear before I started in with them all, especially after the shocker ending. And then I launched into this book with fear and trepidation, hoping against hope that Alex and Lena would find each other again.
The book went a different direction than I had hoped. Don't get me wrong - it is wonderfully written and worthy of high praise. Plus, Lauren Oliver is such a doll that who couldn't like her books just because it's her? So although it was a pleasure to read, it wasn't the plot for which I'd hoped.
My problems are few, but they are foundational. First off, Alex and Lena needed to get the thing figured out WAY earlier than they did, and I wish the bulk of the book had involved them working out the details of their relationship rather than figuring out whether or not to have one. All the time she spent with Julian had me in knots, knowing she'd rather be with Alex. I didn't need to go along with her to figure that out; I knew it all along, and she needed to get a clue.
And what? Alex just disappears for a chunk of the book? Why, why, why? Lena, get your head together! What a different book this would have been if Lena had just left to find Alex (after he left the safe house post-fight with Julian) and then found her mother along the way.
I absolutely adored the scene with the bear. I wish we'd been able to move forward from that point, the two of them having figured it out. Having Alex see that Lena wasn't the same could have begun right there; he could have stopped her from running away completely, etc.
Secondly, I didn't care about Hana. Not one bit. I put up with her POV simply because I had no choice. Everything that had to do with Hana could have been explained another way. What I WOULD like to have heard was Alex's POV. This is a love story, and we hardly knew anything about Alex. Clearly any reader of the book is as interested in him as they are Lena. Hana? Hana who?
And Julian. Nice guy, sweet guy. Evolved over time. Whatever. Move on, give me more background and interaction from Alex. We were set up to want Alex and Lena to get together, live happily ever after. All the dawdling with Julian was just wasted time. Minor distraction, yes. Conflicted feelings of guilt, yes. But most of the book? If Oliver wanted us to see Lena grow, then she accomplished that. But she could have easily appeased everyone by having Lena do that with Alex.
Why didn't she find the trailer and the books? Why couldn't she have found the poetry book that Alex read to her? Why couldn't she have found Alex in the trailer?
Thirdly, the ending. I have rewritten the thing in my head to my liking. I didn't need a sermon on tearing down walls, which is what we got. What I needed was for two young people in a horrible situation to have an emotionally-charged reunion - not a conversation. I didn't read these books because I wanted realism. I read them because of the love story.
And lastly, the undercurrent of realism. Let's face it, the revolution was a backdrop, and an excellent one. But all the emotional realism - I could have done without any of it. Nobody acted impulsively, took chances with love. It was all angst and waffling around. These are kids. Kids take chances and are impulsive and tend to commit, even if it's to bad or wrong things.
I think what could have redeemed every one of these problems would have been an epilogue. If I had just been able to see them happy, living with Grace, time having passed, I would have been satisfied. After all the reviews I've read, I think we all just needed some closure, happy closure with these characters we love.
I cried, I held on in suspense, I am so sad that it's over. But I can move on because it wasn't everything I'd hoped. Maybe that's a good thing. They are happy in my head, and that's what is important to me.