Review Blog

Apr 23 2012

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

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Hodder and Stoughton, 2012. Trade Paperback ISBN 9789 1444722932. Hardback ISBN 978 1 4444722925.
Despite the setting of a harsh, dystopian world where people are 'cured' of emotion, living almost as automatons, Lauren Oliver's story is ultimately satisfying, and, more importantly, for its teenage audience, uplifting.
The setting is the United States of America that is no longer united - a bleak fenced world of cities rather than states, outside of which no-one lives as the countryside was bombed and the inhabitants annihilated. In a modern Orwellian world, it seems that the worst fears of the 20th century have become reality in the area of the wintry north-eastern countryside where the story opens. Lena, afraid, bruised and terrified, is recovering in a ramshackle house, trying to keep warm and fed along with the rag-tag community who have rescued her from the beating that appears to have killed her boyfriend, Alex.
The story opens to a young woman, Lena, who finds people who are willing to help her provided that she works alongside them to stay alive and to migrate when the weather becomes intolerable. This community has a few leaders, and one, Raven, is demanding and secretive, in response to trying to survive and to avoid the purging of their kind, called so ironically, the Invalids. These are people who refuse to be deadened by the 'cure', wanting instead to live freely, and to work to restore the world that has been lost.
Lena is torn by loyalties to her earlier love, having experienced disillusionment with her own family and life, finally making some important discoveries about herself, her family and her friends. This heroine is a good model for young readers, clinging, as she does, to the human yearning for love and the desire to help others to live a good life with real care and concern for others.
Elizabeth Bondar

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