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A letter to Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium (a Book Review)

Dear Lauren Oliver,

I stayed up all night last night reading Pandemonium; I laid in bed and read every glorious word and thought about what it meant to be free, to make your own choices about how to think and what to feel and who to love.  I read with anticipation as Lena talked about growing and changing and running and what it meant to be a zombie. I read and I thought, I wish that every teen and their parents would read this book – this series – and think about what it meant to be a thoughtful person who chose love.  Not just the love between a man and a woman, but the love of family, friends, those people that you choose to draw into you and share your sacred self with.

Today more than ever dystopian fiction reigns and I think it is because you can hear the drum beat of fear and oppression beating through our land.  Beat beat beat, the end is coming its cadence seems to say.  Beat beat beat, we are full of fear.  Beat beat beat, the economy is

collapsing.  Beat beat beat, we are at war and considering more war. I think often of what it must be like growing up as a teen with that constant drum beat as the soundtrack of your life.  What is the price of war?  What sacrifices does it demand of us?  Can you become the very enemy you are trying to bring down?  These are all important questions asked by Lena in Pandemonium, questions that we should be asking of ourselves.

Two days ago a young man walked into a high school in Ohio with a gun and killed some of his class mates.  The press keeps asking why and the answers are the same as they were the last time it happened: too many guns, too much anger, too much bullying, too much selfishness, too much mental illness.  I don’t know the answer, but often when I read books I think about how they have the power to move us and remind us that we are just one part of a bigger story.  I think that when we remember this, when we allow ourselves to open up and truly grasp the bigness of the world around us, we develop compassion for one another.  We are all struggling to find ourselves.  We are all struggling to find a place of peace and comfort and joy.  We all want to know that for a moment, we matter somewhere to someone.  If we took away our capacity to feel love, would that be the answer?  Is it a sickness?

No, love is the answer.  To love one another.  To care. To look at your fellow human beings and say they are just like me, different in the details but the same at the core.  I love how through the two novels Lena slowly realizes this truth and allows herself to be responsible for it.

Some girls are out there swooning and thinking that they want to be Bella.  Others are out there thinking to themselves that they want to be Katniss.  But it is Lena that I hope young girls everywhere would admire the most; Lena whose journey rings most true.  Lena who takes the most daring and honest journey.  Each time she gets new information, she allows herself to shift her being accordingly.  She makes active decisions and takes responsibility for who she becomes and who she chooses to be.  She chooses to love, knowing that it is true that love often comes with a cost: “I feel a sharp stab of sadness.  I have had to give up so much, so many selves and lives already.  I have grown up and out of the rubble of my old lives, of the things and people I have cared for . . . ” (Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium).

You write beautifully, the way you can turn a phrase is a beauty unto itself.  When Lena stands in the wilds talking about freedom, you understand in your core what freedom truly means.  When Lena plunges into the icy water and it rips through the very core of her, you feel an icy dagger stab for a moment at your skin.  And when Lena runs, you feel the desperation of what she is running from and sense that perhaps Alex is standing in the corner of your room and you see flashes of him hiding in the shadows.  The words come dripping off the page with life and meaning.

What does it mean to be free?  I think that is a question we have been asking ourselves as a nation for the last 10+ years?  What are you willing to sacrifice for your freedom?  But in making those sacrifices, are we truly free?  Just as choosing to love means choosing to sometimes have pain, choosing freedom means that we must also choose to suffer the consequences of the choices of others.  As much as we may want, there is no cure from our humanity.  We will never be free of mistakes or wrong choices.  We can never put enough rules into place or tame the human spirit enough and dull the senses to the point where we can not think or feel.  And I hope we never get to the place where we want to.  There is no cure for the human condition, we must just keep working together to find a way to embrace it and live it fully.  We must embrace one another.

I think that every teen and adult should be reading Delirium and Pandemonium and talking about them.  I think that we should all take heed of the warning drum beats and make a decision that we will embrace our humanity and learn to live in peace with it, and one another.  Great literature does more than entertain, it inspires and challenges and reminds.  This is great literature.  I have been inspired, I have been challenged, and I have been reminded . . . thank you.

You have done your job well, I have been moved and I will stand on the roof top and say please, please read this book and let it remind you to treasure your freedom to choose who you are and what you think and feel and who you love more than all.

Pandemonium is the sequel to Delirium and is the story of a society in which teens are forced to undergo an operational procedure that alters how they feel.  Love is considered a disease, the disease that has brought down mankind and destroyed the past.  In this future, society is controlled and devoid of emotion.  Perfection of thought and feeling is the goal.  And then there is Lena, who meets and falls in love with Alex.  There are rumors of a resistance, of people living in “the wilds” who have forsaken the cure.  They are called invalids.  Delirium and Pandemonium tell the story of Lena and how her eyes slowly open to the truth and realizes that the bill of goods that she has always been sold may be all lies.  It is the truly moving story of a girl deciding who she is and what she is going to be, as all teens must.  It is well written, belieavable, and thoughtful.  If you haven’t read it, you should. 5 out of 5 stars
Lauren Oliver talks about Pandemonium at Harper Teen


  1. Wow, I might not write my review now and just send everyone here. That was wonderfully written and incredibly profound.

  2. This is probably the best book review I have ever read. Off to share with the world…

  3. Amazing review. I cannot wait to read the book—Wish I had the money to go out and buy it right now, but I will patiently wait until my library receives the copies 🙂 Thank you for writing such an honest and “dead on” review of both Pandemonium and the world we currently live.

  4. Wow, you are an amazing writer. This review is awesome.
    Thanks for sharing with us!

  5. Fabulous. Thank you for this poetic and important reminder of how powerful YA lit can be!

  6. What a great letter and review. I know Lauren appreciated this immensely 🙂

    I have Delirium on my NOOK and will definitely be reading it soon. I'll also pass it on to my niece and nephews! Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  7. Amazing! What a profound letter. Your passion is palpable.

  8. Fabulous letter! I've read Delirium and have Pandemonium here, waiting to be read. Thanks to reviews like yours, more people will be exposed to the profound message within Lauren Oliver's novels. I truly hope they will influence for good.

  9. I want to thank everyone for the kind responses to my unusual book review. I was just so moved by this book and how well written it was and the message that it was sending that this was my response.

  10. What a great heart-felt letter!!

  11. Truly an amazing read and I recommend anyone who hasn't read either book in the series to hurry and pick up a copy of both ASAP!

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