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 governments 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.
Discovery: Early buzz on Goodreads and book blogs that I follow. Oliver’s first novel, Before I Fall, was an excellent read and it interested me enough to want to check out her follow-up books.
+ Gorgeous, intricate language. The novel deals with the subject of love in a very clinical manner, going so far as to medically label the “disease” amor deliria nervosa. It’s reminiscent of Lois Lowry’s The Giver in this way, though Lena is a far more introspective character than Jonas. She is whip-smart, but there is a deep sense of loneliness and distance in the way she sees the world around her.
+ Alex and Lena’s relationship. It’s obvious from the first moment that Alex and Lena meet that a relationship will develop, but the reader is never quite sure about who falls first. Alex’s introduction is intriguing and fits his mischievous nature really well. Their relationship is written in a way that suggest their feelings for one another–the reader is taken along on an unpredictable ride, filled with uncertainty, fear and a stark and unavoidable fascination.
+ Friendship. It’s easy to forget that Lena has an important relationship before Alex: her best friendship with Hana Tate. Oliver managed to touch the innermost fears of most girls–not looking pretty enough, not being talented enough, not being daring enough–and relate it to how they approach friendships with people they believe embody the traits they want to have. Lena is a brave character, but it’s only when she is with Hana that the true Lena shines.
+/- World-building. Dystopian novels depend on a solid world, and if an author is lazy or indifferent, even the best writing will fall apart. I did think that The Book of Shhh was named rather strangely, but I’m willing to give Oliver the benefit of the doubt and hope that it’s explained in the sequels. As for its contents, I was amazed by the detail and reinterpretation that she came up with, as it’s creative enough to pass for a real book. I’m also curious about the examinations and how exactly they were created.
- Pacing. While I was very quickly caught up in the book, I did think that there were slow chapters. Lena’s scenes with her family are jarring compared to the dreamy mood of the rest of the novel. Some chapters move extremely quickly, while others take their time.
+/- The ending. It was brilliant. Really. But I have to put it down as a negative point too, because after reading it, I had to put the book down and actually reconsider picking it up again. I read this book five days ago, and I still haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to read the sequel.
Falling in love is beautiful, but it is also painful. The ending of this book is much the same way. It’s difficult to describe that pain without spoiling the novel, but suffice it to say, the last pages of your copy may experience heavy torrents. It’s the kind of ending that makes you throw your book across the room, even as you want to hold on tight.
Recommendations: Not for the faint-hearted. I would recommend this book to everyone who has ever wondered about love. Just be prepared to cry.