A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the dystopian thriller Pandemonium, a sequel to Delirium, is a classic second installment, featuring lots of plot-furthering action, violence, and a splash of romance. The first half has some somber sequences about the hungry and impoverished uncured population, but the second features a great deal more violence than the original book: People are killed or die of disease and starvation. The protagonist and supporting characters must defend themselves by injuring or even killing their pursuers. Although the language is fairly standard for teen books, there's more swearing than in Delirium (including a few instances of "f--k"). The romance, while described intensely, doesn't lead to any full-out love scenes -- just a few passionate kisses.
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What's the story?
In part two of Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy, the action alternates between the "now" Lena, who's a dutiful member of the rebellion against the controlling government, and the "then" Lena, who barely survived her escape into the Wilds while her true love, Alex, let himself be captured and killed. PANDEMONIUM explains how Lena barely got across the fence and wound up in an encampment of free, uncured citizens led by Raven. Despite mourning Alex's loss, Lena decides to make herself worthy of his sacrifice and eventually agrees to become a spy in a New York City mission to bring down a government-controlled citizens' group that believes all "Invalids" should be eradicated. But when Lena meets Julian, the son of the movement's reactionary figurehead, she realizes how desperately others need to be convinced of the power of love.
Is it any good?
At first, teens may be confused about why Lena is sitting in a Brooklyn high school, when the last time we saw her she was watching the love of her life bloodied and bruised. Eventually it's clear that there are two time frames for the story -- the immediate aftermath of Lena's escape and her life as part of the rebellion. Readers who expect Alex to miraculously pop up unscathed and continue his starry-eyed relationship with Lena will be disasppointed that Alex is only featured in Lena's memories and that she's eventually drawn to someone who's Alex's opposite.
Because the romance (Oliver's strong suit) in this book feels somewhat like a betrayal to the central one that started the series, there's an underlying sense of conflict and tension that readers will feel right along with Lena about her new relationship. Oliver's not the most detailed world builder, so unlike Suzanne Collins, who provides a detailed explanation of Panem's 13 districts and inhabitants, we learn only a little more about the groups of uncureds, but not nearly enough to fully flesh out this dystopian world where love is a battlefield.
Talk to your kids about ...
Does Lena's new romance seem believable in light of her past relationship with Alex? Why are love triangles such a prevalent subplot in books and movies?
Pandemonium has a lot of social commentary about the controlling government and the effect of love and passion on society. What does a world without strong emotion look like? Lena struggles with the rebellion's acts of revenge. What do you think?
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