Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Delirium Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Mix of forbidden romance, drama, and danger; OK for teens.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 43 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Despite only a faint backstory of how this future United States got this way, the book still sets up a good debate about why a society would make everyone "safe" from strong emotion. For more on dystopian societies, high schoolers who haven't read 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley should add these to their reading list (if English teachers haven't already) and compare. Also, see our list of recommended dystopian novels for more modern titles.

Positive Messages

Characters risk everything to fight for love against a hyper-controlling government that has banned it. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

After the "procedure" at 18, everyone is apathetic, so that means the only thinking, feeling, positive characters are young. At first Lena wants what everyone else is told to want -- the numbness of the procedure -- but she slowly comes around, understanding herself better and why she should fight for individual freedom. Lena's love interest is idealized here, like many boyfriends are in fantasy-romances -- he's handsome, older, and wiser, and never says or does anything wrong.


The government rules over all in this book, no negotiation. All U.S. residents endure a procedure, essentially brain surgery, at 18 years old to remove their ability to love; some are strapped down against their will and taken into surgery. Regulators and dogs go after dissenters with clubs and guns. Mostly people are clubbed over the head as they run, dogs bite others, a few are shot. The main character remembers hearing about her mother's suicide when she was 6 years old, jumping off a cliff into the ocean, plus mentions of other suicides.


Lena and Alex kiss a lot and Alex takes off Lena's shirt. Vague innuendo from Lena's friend Hana that more goes on than that.


"F--k" you!" uttered twice. Plus "s--t" and "s--tty," and "ass."


A few brands mentioned, but it's things like Advil.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lena recalls a time when she and Hana got drunk one bored afternoon and watched the room spin, plus drinking and smoking at underground parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that a forbidden romance dominates this dystopian fantasy. The love connection at its core is idealized and stays pretty innocent: Lena and Alex kiss and he takes off her shirt. The amount of violence is pretty typical for the genre. The main character remembers the suicide of her mother more than a decade earlier to avoid the "procedure" -- essentially brain surgery every U.S. citizen endures to remove their ability to be infected by Amor Deliria Nervosa, or love. The threat of death hovers over Lena and Alex if the couple is found out, plus batons are used on victims and there's some shooting. Despite only a faint backstory of how this future United States got this way, the book still sets up a good debate about why a society would make everyone "safe" from strong emotion. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytoriandme123 April 2, 2019

Very interesting

There are a few swear words, but it is appropriate enough so it is OK. The romance is not too geeky either. There is a lot of violence, but there are good rol... Continue reading
Adult Written byIamAgirl October 26, 2015

11 and up!

It is a really good dystopian book so i really recommend it!!
Teen, 13 years old Written byj.may.m April 12, 2020

only for mature 12 year olds, other wise 13+

this book is AMAZING.

the start is a bit plain but it makes you want to read on.

i was actually 11 when i read this. its very fun and i couldn't put it... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byGibby900 February 20, 2018

Overall Great Book

I thought this book was very well written with descriptive and figurative language. It had a very interesting plot, and new twists kept coming in that I wasn... Continue reading

What's the story?

The future United States is a place of extreme order and apathy, thanks to a government-required procedure that all citizens must submit to at 18 to protect them from Amore Deleria Nervosa -- the disease of love. Lena can't wait for her procedure, scheduled in a few months. Then she'll be free from memories of her beloved mother who killed herself 12 years ago after a botched procedure to "cure" her. Then, Lena meets Alex and it's not long before she's seriously and wonderfully "infected." He's from beyond the electrified fence and fakes the mark of the cured so he can attend school and stage small anonymous acts of resistance. As Alex opens Lena's eyes to what the cure really represents, Lena struggles with what to do. All the while her procedure date draws nearer.

Is it any good?

Teen readers will be drawn into this book's exciting premise and its mix of romance, high drama and danger. If citizens get "infected" by love, government regulators drag them, kicking and screaming to poke at their brains until they don't care about anyone anymore. Yikes. If readers stay focused on Lena and Alex's star-crossed romance, they are in for a great ride. Those who try to follow the whys and hows of the making of this society will find the unanswered questions keep on coming. They will wish the author had taken more time to flush-out her dystopian backdrop.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the resurgence in popularity of dystopian novels. Like Twilight launched many more vampire novels, the popularity of The Hunger Games, for example, gave this genre new life. Why do teens connect with these books? What do you think the next book fad will be?

  • It's hard to find a fault in Alex, Lena's love interest. Why do you think the main male character in romantic novels is often drawn this way? Do characters like Alex shape teen's expectations about romance in any way?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and romance

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