This book was not what I was expecting, and I suspect I'm not alone in this reaction. With so many teen dystopians to choose from the reason I decided to pursue this trilogy was because 1) I think Lauren Oliver is a strong writer and 2) I thought the world she created in Delirium was not only creepy but intriguing. Unfortunately, this book fell somewhat short on both accounts.
While I'm still willing to give Oliver the benefit of the doubt on her writing prowess, some of her choices in this book seemed simplistic and rote. I think this is a case of high expectations on my part, and middle book syndrome failing to fully deliver. Additionally there was very little interaction with the world Oliver built in the first book since the bulk of this story really takes place in the Wilds or off the grid. I understand why the book is built the way it is, but ultimately I didn't find this survival tale as engrossing as I found portrayals of the cured society.
So then what was working? Despite the fact we don't spend much time in the cured world I still find it intriguing, and I'm interested to see what happens in the future. I also enjoyed watching Lena grow from a reactionary character into one with abundant agency and strength. She evolves, and while I have some conflicted feelings about the many different Lenas we meet throughout this book, I did enjoy watching her learn and change. I also liked the way the book dealt with violence and action - it didn't feel overwrought or sensationalized.
I'm not going to weigh in on the romance angle at this point. I know that's a sticking point for a lot of people, and truthfully I'm not sure what to feel about it either. That's why I'm going to reserve my judgements until I read the third installation. All in all Pandemonium was a fun diversion, even if it wasn't quite the special gem I was hoping for. I plan to read Requiem, and likely the short story collection that serves as a companion. I want to know how Lena's story, and her world, will shape up.