Favorite books of 2011, part 6: Dystopia

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

In this dystopian future society, love is seen as a disease. Some of the best passages were from a propaganda book that outlines the “symptoms” of love and its “treatment,” etc. It’s so interesting how impossible it is to argue that love is sane and the society is crazy once that rhetoric of disease has taken hold. And it’s interesting to see how much we do use that rhetoric of disease in real life to talk about love. The love story was very sweet and even sexy, and sad and tragic at the end.

Looking forward to the sequel, Pandemonium, coming out on February 28!

Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie


A dystopia series in which The Society runs everything and even chooses mates for people. Just like in the godfather of all dystopias, 1984, Cassia and Ky have to play mental games with the police and/or society leaders. They’re constantly wondering if they’re being watched or tested, or if they have outsmarted the society after all. There is adventure and romance as they run away and try to find each other. I particularly liked the parts about censorship and how it was the first step in society’s movement toward ever more repression. The latest book, Crossed, really set up the next one to be amazing. Cassia and Ky are separated again, fighting for the resistance and infiltrating the society, and the love triangle will come back in a big way.

I think it’s interesting how in both of these books, the repressiveness of a dystopian society finds its highest and most objectionable expression in the way the society tries to constrain love and choose characters’ partners for them. It’s certainly true that in our most intimate relationships there is the most potential for subversion, and therefore it would be important for an authoritarian government to keep these relationships from undermining loyalty to the state. The instant we make another person more important than any other in our eyes, we go against the collectivist ideology that permeates these societies. And when we’re really in love and value another person above our own life, then we become absolutely unpredictable, incredibly powerful, and unspeakably dangerous from the point of view of authority. It makes perfect sense that love would be unpermissible in this kind of society.

It’s also true that the love story makes a dystopia immediately interesting to teenage girls. It creates a Romeo and Juliet plot where a couple has to work to figure out a way to be together in spite of the society’s prohibition. And there are few things more romantic than the sacrifices and risks these couples go through to be together.


13 thoughts on “Favorite books of 2011, part 6: Dystopia

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