Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Double Feature is an occasional feature where I discuss/review two books, often comparing and contrasting characters or elements that were similar or different.  I try my best to not include spoilers, or to give a spoiler warning before them, but because these reviews are more in-depth than regular reviews, it is possible there might be some plot points given away.  Read at your own risk.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 2005
ISBN: 9780689865381

Source: Library (book group)

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: February 2011
ISBN: 9780061726828
Source: ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours and e-copy through NetGalley

Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1)Delirium (Delirium - Trilogy) 

Uglies: Tally is just counting the days until she turns sixteen and can turn pretty.  In a world where everyone is gorgeous and happy, she is ready for her turn.  When she meets a new friend Shay, who talks about being pretty as if it isn't the most important thing, she thinks it's a joke.  Until Shay runs away and leaves the world of pretties behind.  Tally is then faced with a desperate choice between friendship and being pretty.

Delirium: Lena can't wait until she's gotten the cure.  In a world where amor deliria nervosa (ie love) is a disease, Lena wants the security and stability that will come from having calm if cold relationships.  After all, love is dangerous and will eventually kill you.  But, life has other plans for her.  Into her rigid and structured life comes a boy and Lena does the unthinkable.  She falls in love.

Apart from the obvious, that they are dystopian books, these books had some other things in common.  The thing I first noticed was that there is a "cure" of sorts.  In Delirium (hereafter D), it is a cure for delirium nervosa, while in Uglies (hereafter U) it is a cure or procedure to get rid of ugliness.  The cure is what the entire novel revolves around in both.  

Also, in both books, the main character begins by believing wholeheartedly in the cure.  They are looking forward to the day when they will receive it and they are even both counting down the days until it happens.  It is also a close girl friend who first puts into our characters' minds the idea that it may not be what they think it is.  Hana in D is Lena's best friend and she appears not to be like most people - not afraid to speak out against the cure and the government that institutes it.  In U, Shay is the one who first gets Tally thinking about what being pretty might mean.  Shay and Hana also both encourage Tally and Lena to do things that are illegal like sneaking out and visiting forbidden places.  

A third similarity is in the male love interest.  For Lena in D, she meets Alex, who she at first believes is cured and therefore safe.  As time goes on (*spoiler*) she learns he is an uncured like her and also from outside of her town, the place where traitors and invalids live. (*end spoiler*)  Similarly, Tally in U meets David, who is unmistakably still an ugly, but who lives outside of the government's sway in a place where traitors and those who aren't cured live.  These boys open the eyes of both Lena and Tally to seeing that there is so much more to life that what they think and what the government tells them it should be.  Also, the main character visits these outside places at least once during the story.

There are, of course, things that are very different about these two books.  One big difference is the presence of the government.  While it is obvious that both control everyday life, in U it was much more proactive in destroying those who don't obey the rules.  They actively seek out the Smoke and try to eradicate them.  In D, they keep outsiders away from those in the cities largely by fear and lining the borders with fences and electricity.  They were not interested in going outside of their cities and finding people after they initially thought they got rid of them all.  

The cures are also different, of course.  In U, it is obvious at first glance when someone hasn't had the cure - they are still ugly.  Also, (*spoiler*) there is more to the cure than just getting rid of ugliness, a part of the brain that is changed so people don't think much. (*end spoiler*)   In D, you can only tell if a person is cured by a small scar on their heads - a scar which could be faked.  Everyone knows that the cure for delirium nervosa affects how people feel and seems to dull all of their sensibilities.  There was no government effort to hide side effects or things of that sort.  Also, it was not really optional to receive the treatment in D, whereas there are a few people mentioned in U that choose to remain ugly.  There are no severe consequences mentioned in relation to those who choose that, except they aren't welcome in the pretty societies.  

Things also are different in relation to Hana and Shay later on.  While Shay is still very much opposed to the cure and escapes from that life into the Smoke, Hana's rebellion will not lead her to give up her current life.  She plans to stay in the city and receive her cure.

Things I Liked in Uglies:
This was my second time reading Uglies, for our book group.  We had a lot of lively discussion of this title, and everyone seemed to enjoy the book.  We all loved the society and the impact it made on our own views of what's beautiful.  I loved having a chance to reread it and get a more in-depth look at what Westerfeld might have been saying.  Most of us, on first reading, just get sucked into the fast-paced story and what will happen next.  This time around, I was struck by the comparisons Westerfeld and even the main characters made between the operation and growing up.  They often talk about "growing up" and thinking about what they want to look like, but the main part of the story is when Tally grows up in completely different ways.  She finds a little bit of herself at a time to love, even while she's ugly.  A lot to discuss and also a lot of fun.  Still one of my favorite dystopian books.

Things I Liked in Delirium:
This is a book that will make you think long and hard about almost everything in your life.  But, especially your relationships.  It will force you to look at them and remember why you love those people and what you would do for them.  It questions why we love and how we love and what we want from life.  At the risk of repeating that word too many times, I loved it.  Not only does Lena deal with falling in love with someone, but her relationships with her best friend, a young cousin, and her mother, are all woven into the plot.  Oliver's writing is beautiful; I don't know how many passages I marked in the book, but it felt like every page had something I wanted to share.  She has a talent for evoking feeling in every sentence and metaphors that feel so real and vivid, it's impossible to see things in any other way.  I was particularly intrigued by the dystopian world that was created.  It was very well developed and I especially enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter from a book that managed to change a lot of familiar stories.  It was awesome.  I'm going to be thinking about this one for a long time to come.  I think that is a sign of a great book.  I think these quotes also catch the essence of this book really well, both the writing and the content.  If you aren't at least intrigued, I'll be surprised.

It's only slightly better than the other word that followed me for years after my mom's death, a snakelike hiss, undulating, leaving its trail of poison: Suicide.  A sideways word, a word that people whisper and mutter and cough: a word that must be squeezed out behind cupped palms or murmured behind closed doors.  p 10-11 of ARC
Most of us won't see each other after graduation, and even if we do it will be different.  We'll be different.  We'll be adults, cured, tagged and labeled and paired and identified and placed neatly on our life path, perfectly round marbles set to roll down even, well-defined slopes. p 90 of ARC
I said that without love, there could also be no hate: without hate, no violence.  Hate isn't the most dangerous thing, he'd said.  Indifference is. p 362 of ARC
It occurs to me that this numbness, this feeling of separation, must be what she and every cured experiences all the time: as though there is a thick, muffling pane of glass between you and everybody else.  Hardly anything penetrates.  Hardly anything matters.  They say the cure is about happiness, but I understand now that it isn't, and it never was.  It's about fear: fear of pain, fear of hurt, fear, fear, fear - a blind animal existence, bumping between walls, shuffling between ever-narrowing hallways, terrified and dull and stupid. p 383 of ARC
Things I Didn't Like in Uglies:
The beginning does move a bit slow, before Shay takes off.  Otherwise, I really just loved reading it again.  

Things I Didn't Like in Delirium:
I was kind of a little surprised that she went with the ending she did.  While I expected something of the sort, I was rather hoping for something a little different.  Mind you, it was a seriously twisty ending and I nearly dropped the book when I read it, but it just wasn't what I thought it would be.  Which, actually now that I think about it, is more of a strength of the book and something I like than something I don't like. :)  Maybe it's because I want more books about this world and I can't tell if there will be from the ending.  I hope so.  The only other problem I had was the beginning being a little slow in places.  Oh, and the slightly unbelievable premise that people wanted to eradicate love.  But, these are minor squibbles.  Read it!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Matched by Ally Condie
The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Giver by Lois Lowry

s-factor: !
maybe a few

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
some action sequences and scary parts

Overall rating: *****

s-factor: !@#
very few in number, but some f-words

mrg-factor: X
some moments, but it was really quite tame

v-factor: ->->->
there are some rather violent scenes

Overall rating: *****

What do you think? Have you read them both?

Posted as part of Presenting Lenore's Dystopian February celebration. Check it out!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. Great review! I loved how you compared thetwo especially since both are favorites of mine. It's funny how both books "cure" something a lot of people think we might be better off w/o (especially after a bad breakup!) but it turns out not to be as good as we thought it would be. I cannot wait for the next book in the Delirium series!

  2. Debbie, how hilarious! Maybe they both wrote theirs thinking of a bad breakup :) So true that's how you feel - ugly and unloved.


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