Posted May 30, 2012 by Tara in Review /// 9 Comments

That girl on the cover CAN’T be Lena. Like an actor on the CW, she looks like she’s in her 20’s!

by Lauren Oliver
Random House/Listening Library/Harper Teen
CD borrowed from public library
[#42 in my 75 book challenge]

Is it just me, or was this book the very definition of pandemonium? Pandemonium is the second book in the Delirium trilogy, and it suffers from middle-book syndrome. If you’ve not yet read Delirium, you can check out my review here. Be aware that, since this is the second book in a trilogy, this review will contain spoilers from Delirium (but not for Pandemonium). Speak now or forever hold your peace…


Pandemoniumis the story of Lena’s life after her escape to The Wilds. After the “incident” at the fence, she’s flying solo…but not for long. The narration alternates back and forth between “Then” and “Now,” and each part tells a different story. In the “Then” chapters, we see Lena meet a group of invalids and learn about life outside of society and away from The Cure. In the “Now” chapters, Lena is infiltrating the Deliria Free American (DFA) in a New York City Rally. We have to read both stories to find out how Lena ends up back in New York society, posing as one of the cured, and what kind of dangers she gets into with her mission.

Sarah Drew, as April Kepler on Grey’s Anatomy.

The word “pandemonium” means “wild and noisy disorder or confusion or uproar,” and I was struggling to get through this story for those very reasons. The alternating narration confused me. I was far more interested in the “Now” plot than the “Then,” so I mostly found myself zoning out for half the story. I listened to the story as an audio book, so the format may be at fault here — though my fellow blogger April over at Good Books and Good Wine loved the audio book, I wasn’t so much a fan. Sarah Drew, of Grey’s Anatomy fame, was the narrator, and I found her distracting. Maybe it was her or maybe it was Oliver’s writing style (or maybe both), but it felt like a 10 hour-long super-intense poetry slam…which was exhausting. I love Sarah Drew’s film acting, but it just didn’t work for me here.

However, the book wasn’t a total loss. Again, I’m focusing on the negative parts, which isn’t exactly fair. I did like the “Now” part, I liked Julian, and I like the direction that Oliver took Lena’s character. Lena is a strong female lead, and she’s taking a stand because she fundamentally believes that her society is WRONG about Deliria. She’s not just risking her life for one boy, which is why I was so glad when Lena crossed the fence without Alex at the end of the first book  — Lena needed to stand on her own, and she did. And, of course, the ending blew me away and left me ready to read the third book.

FINAL GRADE:   C   Good. It definitely has some flaws, but it was worth it to read through this middle book to prepare for the conclusion of the trilogy. If you liked Delirium, be aware that this installment is different, but necessary. I would not read it as a stand alone, but I would recommend it to my students who liked Delirium. It definitely has a place in my library (it’s totally middle school appropriate) and I will be reading Requiem when it comes out next February.

Have you ever found that an audio book clouded your impression of a novel? Which one?


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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9 responses to “Pandemonium

  1. Well that stinks that you didn’t like Pandemonium! But, despite that, I totally agree with a lot of what you said; I can imagine listening to the audiobook would sound like a poetry slam! I wasn’t too blown away by the ending – kind of saw that one coming – but it definitely left me excited to read Requiem!

    And to answer your question, I haven’t really listened to anything that made me think a book was bad… but I have listened to an audiobook of one of my favorites that made me SO glad I read the book first. I wanted to check out the audio of The Last Olympian and HATED HATED HATED the narrator. So glad I found Percy before I found audiobooks! (rant over)

  2. For the longest time I would not “read” audio books because I hated having someone else’s voice reading the story in my head. I wanted it to be my voice in my head reading it. But when I was spending12 hours on the road every weekend I hated the lost time, so I retried. And found a few I actually liked. Harry potter’s were great on audio (at least the first 3 that I read) and I’ve found autobiographies are my favorite on audio because it’s the speaker literally talking to you.

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