Review: Requiem – Lauren Oliver

requiem - lauren oliver

They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past. But we are still here. And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight. After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings. Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it. But we have chosen a different road. And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose. We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

[Warning: I cannot discuss Requiem without explicit spoilers, so if you have not yet read this final book, proceed with caution.]

You know when a series is so breathtaking that every word or turn of phrase makes your head spin because it is that gorgeous? Those books where everything — the characters, their stories, even the prose itself — stays with you for months, somewhere in the back of your mind, omnipresent. They’re not perfect novels, the story isn’t even complete yet, but they mean the world to you and for the time being, no other book can grab your attention the same way. Nothing else quite matters.

For me, this series was Lauren Oliver’s Delirium.

If you know me at all, or if you’ve read my Delirium and Pandemonium reviews, I am not a fan of dystopian novels. I love the idea of them, but the execution never quite lives up to the concept. They all somehow fall apart in book two or three, and by the time I hit the end of the trilogy, I’m left wondering why I even started reading in the first place.

So it stunned me when Delirium captivated me beyond the first book. I fell in love with Alex as Lena did; I adored her friendship with Hana; I enjoyed following her journey from the walls within Portland into the Wilds. I was convinced this would be the one “perfect” dystopian trilogy, and I could not have been more excited for Requiem.

I suppose that was the problem: I wanted too much from Requiem. I wanted a brilliant dystopian ending; I wanted it to restore my faith in the genre; I wanted it to make me fall in love with love the way Delirium did a year and a half ago…

Don’t misunderstand me: Requiem is a fantastic installment in Lauren Oliver’s stunning series. Like the books that came before it, much of the things I adored about Oliver’s lyrical prose, structured plotting, and realistic character development are present in this novel as well.

Lena continues to be an engaging protagonist, and I enjoyed witnessing her evolve from the wide-eyed, sheltered girl she was two books ago to the girl who can fend for herself, survive in the wilderness, and actually fight for the things that matter to her. Her gradual transformation throughout these books is what makes them succeed, in my opinion. Lena changes, not only in her abilities and strength, but also in perspective and in her understanding of the world around her. Throughout Requiem, the thoughts Lena has — about her life before and her life now — reminded me (subtly) of Lena’s narrative in Pandemonium, when she first began to adapt to life in the Wilds as an active member of the Resistance. I loved the throwbacks to the first novel, the mention of her life as Hana’s friend/a member of the Tiddle family, some of the moments she shared with Alex, and the still-powerful memory of her mother’s final words, “I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” Her observations about her surroundings and their fight for freedom particularly stood out to me because I, like Lena, was both mesmerized and horrified by the contrast in concepts. The goal of their Resistance is to simply have the freedom to love (openly), but in seeking out this goal, they must do the opposite and fight on the battlefield instead.

“Suddenly I am overcome with exhaustion. I am tired of fighting, of hitting and being hit. This is the strange way of the world, that people who simply want to love are instead forced to become warriors. It’s the upside-down nature of life.”

I truly love the way the Delirium trilogy speaks at length about the various dimensions of “freedom” and all it entails. In Pandemonium, the diversity of the groups of people who disagreed with the government intrigued me. I found it interesting and reasonable that some of the “Uncureds” or “Invalids” wanted little disturbance in their lives and sought quiet, underground residence instead of choosing to protest and fight. They wanted the freedom to live as they desired without adapting to the government’s imposed beliefs, but their idea of seeking this freedom differed from Lena’s and from the Resistance. Which made sense to me because in reality, not everyone is a fighter — some just want to live their lives in peace, even if it means living it beneath the ground. Though these people are not mentioned in Requiem (even though, honestly, I still wonder about them and wish they were), this theme of “freedom” meaning different things to different people is brought up once again. In the Wilds, Lena encounters a group of “Resisters” who have the same ideas she and her companions have about love, but instead of only protesting the government’s ideas, rules, and regulations, they protest the entire concept of government. The anarchy Lena witnesses is jarring for her because she is so used to the orderly way Raven and Tack run things that it makes her question the idea of freedom. She is disturbed by the way these people live like animals, and she wonders if perhaps the government had the right image of them all along when they claimed the Invalids were barely human. I loved these portrayals of freedom as something positive, negative, and downright frightening, and Lena’s thoughts about them once again revealed how new she is to this world (to this fight), and how the people she meets and the things she experiences are still influencing and altering her world-view every day.

Another interesting, unexpected aspect of Requiem is the dual narrative. Maybe it’s because it isn’t very traditional and I strongly value order, but viewing the series as a whole, I really disliked the fact that Lauren Oliver structured every novel in the trilogy differently. Delirium is told strictly from Lena’s point-of-view (with help from excerpts from “The Book of Shhh”), Pandemonium is Lena’s perspective again but with alternating chapters forward and backward in time, and Requiem introduces the viewpoint of another character entirely, Hana, who shares the stage with Lena’s narrative once again. Initially, I reacted negatively to this set-up because this is the first novel where another character has a voice, and lining up the structures side-by-side, they just look disorganized and messy. I needed to understand the disparity — both Delirium and Pandemonium used those unique aspects of their narrative to their advantage and revealed things about the dystopia and Lena through them. What could Hana’s perspective possibly add to the overall story? And why, if another point-of-view is absolutely necessary, must it be Hana’s?

Hana’s narrative ended up being something I enjoyed about this book and something I regretted. One of the things I missed about Pandemonium was Hana and Lena’s friendship, which was an essential part of who Lena was and who she became. Hana and Alex were the biggest influences in her life in Delirium, and since she escaped to the Wilds, especially now when she’s remembering her old life, I wondered what had become of her. I think it’s fantastic that Requiem re-introduces Hana’s perspective to bring the setting back to Portland, let us know how things have changed there since the first book, and allow us to view the political situation straight from the mind of a newly-“Cured”. I loved the way Hana’s voice mirrored Lena’s perfectly, not in the sense that they had similar thoughts (though they were both dreaming of the last summer they spent together and their friendship), but in pacing. Hana’s lows and highs roughly paralleled Lena’s, and by the time their story converged during the novel’s climax, I was prepared for the confrontation — the single setting, the mood, the way both Lena and Hana’s hearts were racing (for two completely different reasons) foreshadowed the encounter before it even happened.

As amazing as it was to see this pan out, several things still bothered me about Hana’s narrative (and by “several things”, I don’t mean her confession). Earlier, I posed the question, what does Hana’s point-of-view add to the story? Though it certainly adds much, my issue with it is that it also takes away a lot. Hana’s story with her creepy fiance Fred sets the stage for Lena and Hana to meet again, but her investigation about Fred’s previous marriage and all of the scenes she shares with Fred do nothing but assure the reader that Lena and the Resistance are doing the world a favor by assassinating him at the end of the novel. (Hana’s narrative also made me spend a great deal of time worrying about her future because her life couldn’t end well as that creeper’s bride.) I love mysteries and I find anything horrific, suspenseful, thrilling, and even creepy in fiction absolutely compelling. So I can’t say I was bored by Hana’s side story, but I also have to reaffirm that it is a side story and (considering the overarching plot and themes of the novel) it did not feel completely necessary — or even relevant.

Considering I spent Pandemonium championing Lauren Oliver’s “love triangle that isn’t really a love triangle”, I was surprised by how much the romance in Requiem irritated me. I defended Julian’s existence in the last book, and I was impressed by the way he was used as a confidante, a friend, someone Lena needed to comfort and be comforted by. Every dystopian novel these days seems to depend on love triangles, and none of them are actually necessary. However, Julian did not seem like a useless character, Lena did not seem fickle in her feelings for him or Alex, and I adored their relationship, which was more platonic than romantic. I was convinced everything Oliver was doing was for a reason. Dystopian books with randomly introduced love triangles generally make no sense to me because the romance has little to do with the actual plot — there is something of greater concern for the main characters to worry about. The difference with Delirium, however, is that love is at the forefront, personally and politically. Lena did not adapt to this life to fight for a cause — not initially, anyway. All she wanted for herself was the freedom to love, but more specifically, the freedom to love Alex and the freedom for Alex to love her. That is the story of Delirium — the entire first novel is about her feelings for Alex and how the things she learns about love, the feelings she shares with him, and the feelings he induces in her lead her to reject everything she has ever known and follow him into the Wilds, where they can be happy away from the restrictive laws of the government. If Alex had died after Delirium ended, then one can argue that romance had nothing to do with this book, and Lauren Oliver’s objective since the beginning has been to write a trilogy about love as an ideology, something Lena learns is beautiful in the first book, painful (to lose) in the second, and a chaotic/petty/enduring source of strength in the third. However, this series has always been personal — it is Lena’s voice inside my head when I read the novels, and it is Lena’s story, the one she shares with Alex which started it all, that matters to me most. Which is why I cannot comprehend why Alex fails to play a significant role in Requiem (aside from a few scenes he shares with Lena, his character does little and adds little to the plot).

I’m not delusional enough to think that Delirium‘s enchanting scenes of Alex reading romantic poetry to Lena and cuddling her in 37 Brooks would ever return in the series, especially not with all of their misunderstandings. They aren’t safe, they aren’t the same people, and there is so much confusion and unsaid statements (accusations, confessions) between them. (With all of the constant running and fighting, they also have more important priorities.) However, after Alex’s re-appearance in Pandemonium, there was so much I wanted to know, so much I wanted Lena to know. It is obvious that Alex was captured after he and Lena tried to escape Portland. He was probably thrown into the Crypts, tortured repeatedly. Lena doesn’t know what he has survived, and although she herself has experienced so much hardship in the past year, she can’t know what it feels like to be in that position. Whereas he must know — from when he first joined the Resistance — what she is going through, thrust into the Wilds without any connections, any survival skills, any knowledge of how the world is out there and how to live in such a world. He can empathize with her in a way she cannot with him (hell, she thought he was dead), so it really bothered me when he chose to push Lena away — repeatedly — resigning himself to play a background role in her life, as well as in the story.

Despite my irritation at his behavior, I understand Alex’s feelings. He spent months being tortured because he wanted to love this girl freely, and only the thought of her kept him from completely losing his mind during the pain. And then he finds his way back to her somehow, only to discover her making promises to another boy, like his sacrifice for her survival and everything he endured was for nothing. He has a right to his anger, even though he is completely misunderstanding the situation and failing to see things from Lena’s eyes. And knowing his character, his stubbornness and his (wounded) pride, I can’t blame him for refusing to share his feelings with Lena or denying that he ever felt anything for her at all. He was being ridiculous, but given the circumstances, I can’t really blame him. (Part of him must be wondering why he didn’t just die in the Crypts if she their love was that little.)

I can, however, blame Alex for being an idiot and failing to talk to Lena numerous times as the story progressed. I don’t understand why, after the initial anger, Alex didn’t seek Lena out and explain to her why he said the things he did, and how he really feels about her. And I don’t understand why Lena didn’t try to talk to him again either. I know that when Alex told her he never cared about her, she felt mortified and upset for still having feelings for him, and it would be difficult for her to seek him out after that. But it pains me as a reader to see this small misunderstanding (he thinks she is in love with someone else, she has always loved him most and only sought Julian’s comfort because she thought he was dead — they are both still in love with each other and are stupidly resisting telling each other this fact and allowing themselves to be happy) turn into an unending angst fest. For no reason at all. All it would take is a simple conversation started by either character, but neither makes the move and the feelings of anger, betrayal, jealousy, unresolved sexual tension, and (secret) love multiply. Over pages and pages and pages… until moments before the story’s conclusion.

Like Pandemonium, there are love triangles in this novel, but neither of them feel necessary, and both of them are incredibly frustrating. It is clear since the very beginning of Requiem that Lena and Alex only truly love each other, despite their issues. For most of this story, however, they constantly stay away from each other (brooding, glaring, raving mad with jealousy) and choose, instead, to spend time with other people — Alex with a new girl named Coral, and Lena with Julian once again. Because their daily lives are a pattern of moving and fighting, it makes sense that they, when they’re too angry to be with the person they actually want to be with, would seek the comfort of anyone available. But in the grand scheme of things, and in the way both triangles fizzled into nothing (after one dramatic and sad and partly exciting because I was surprised it took that long to happen scene), these triangles still failed to add anything to the story. Even if they can be justified given the circumstances, frankly, I felt like the time spent on the pettiness could have been better served elsewhere. (I also hate the way Lena and Alex, in seeking comfort, used two perfectly nice, decent people and led them on, only to eventually discard them at the end of the book, when their feelings for each other are finally out in the open.)

“Mama, Mama, put me to bed,
I won’t make it home, I’m already half-dead.
I met an Invalid, and fell for his art.
He showed me his smile, and went straight for my heart.”

Although the love triangle annoyed me, I did enjoy the way it enabled part of the story to come around full circle. As a girl new to love in a repressive society, it does not surprise me that Lena has no idea how to deal with feelings of jealousy and envy and (irrational) hatred. It’s only natural for her to feel the way she does, especially because she has never been exposed to such feelings before. (Which is why I understand that to deal with such feelings, she turns to Julian again because, even though her feelings for Alex are stronger, she still cares about him and his company makes her happy — or at least, happier.) Instead of wallowing in the pity, however, I love that Lena’s mind starts recalling passages from “The Book of Shhh” about the symptoms and side effects of Amor Deliria Nervosa. She begins to understand that they are not completely wrong when they say love is dangerous, love is maddening, or love can make you do things you’d never consider. In some ways, it can be a disease because of the way it messes with your mind and emotions and prevents you from acting rationally (especially when you’re feeling petty or jealous for the first time). In this manner, although the descriptions of Coral and Alex brushing knees and whispering in each other’s ears made me sick, Lena’s thoughts and evolving understanding of love made such scenes (almost) endurable.

In spite of these moments of brilliance, realism, or “un-necessity”, my disappointment with Requiem stems entirely from its lackluster ending. When you read a story, stick with the characters through all of the emotional upheaval and pain for three books, you want some guarantee that everything they worked for was not irrelevant. That in the end, something will come out of their reasons for fighting, even if it isn’t in their lifetime, even if it takes them years to actually accomplish anything. This is what I expect from a dystopia that has carried me through so many tears, so much wondering, so many endless thoughts of, “Is she going to make it? Is he going to survive? Is everything they’ve ever wanted finally going to happen?” I didn’t want Lena and Alex to move mountains — I just needed some reassurance that all of their suffering wasn’t pointless. Unfortunately, this is not what Requiem‘s final pages do for me.

This series is different from most dystopian novels in that Lena Holloway is not at the center of the rebellion. Unlike Katniss Everdeen and Harry Potter, she is not a symbol of hope for the Resistance. She is an active member, of course, but their activities don’t revolve around her — essentially, they don’t even need her. She is just one member in a sea of many. However, because the story is written from Lena’s point-of-view, seeing the Resistance through her eyes is a more localized experience. We aren’t seeing everything the Resistance is accomplishing; we aren’t witnessing all of the important events. Lena is not leading this revolution, so there is a huge chance that significant events in their protest are happening throughout the United States in other locations, and because Lena is not experiencing them and she is not someone high-ranking in the protest, she simply does not know about them. What’s interesting about this is that it allows Lauren Oliver to bring the reader into this world as just another participant. It’s a realistic experience because in reality, most people in political movements are not leaders, but followers, a part of something greater than themselves.

While I love that Requiem does this successfully, this limited perspective complicates the trilogy’s resolution. Outside of wherever in the Wilds Lena is at the time or Portland, we do not know what kind of headway the Resistance is making. Are other cities experiencing what is going on in Portland? How many locations would they need to topple over in order to bring about significant change? Will they need to fight the U.S. government itself? It wouldn’t make sense for Lena to know any of these things (directly). However, not knowing them leaves so much to be desired by the time the story ends.

Lena’s journey ends with Portland. She and Alex finally settle their relationship and reconnect, she encounters Grace and Hana once again, and this time, she is in charge of a major Resistance attack, the assassination of Mayor Fred Hargrove. It is fantastic to see her return to her hometown as someone who can now fight, as a person working to make a difference. However, we do not get to witness the culmination of her efforts. She and her friends, other Invalids, Cured sympathizers, and anyone who is dissatisfied with the current federal or local government start tearing down the walls enclosing Portland as a “protective border”.

“Take down the walls. That is, after all, the whole point. You do not know what will happen if you take down the walls; you cannot see through to the other side, dont know whether it will bring freedom or ruin, resolution or chaos. It might be paradise or destruction.
Take down the walls.”

I love this imagery for more than its poetry. The message is beautiful: if you stay within the walls of your bubble without ever once peeking onto the other side, how would you ever know that the things you are fearing are actually… fearful? It’s a powerful image, and I think it relates to Requiem‘s recurring theme about freedom brilliantly (even if the freedom you imagine is different from the reality).

However, I cannot accept this as an adequate conclusion. Reading the final pages of Requiem felt like the beginning of the ending, something meant to lead to the conclusion we expect in a dystopian novel: the crumbling of the old world order; the realization that the society they thought was utopian was far from perfect; the breakdown of the scientific and religious beliefs this society has about love (since these twisted views are the reason this dystopia even exists); some kind of widespread political chaos meant to expose things for the way they truly are. Because Lena is not omniscient and is not at the center of the action, this is a daunting task for her narrative. To dismantle Delirium‘s society would require more than simply taking down a corrupt government. The Resistance would need to convince people, scientists, the governments, the Cureds, anyone who believes the propaganda about love that what they believe is wrong, ridiculous, and in need of reform. It’s a toppling of an entire government, their scientific beliefs, and even their religion. For one girl who is only a participant in a larger revolution, this is more information than Lena’s point-of-view can possibly reveal.

But these revelations are not impossible.

I wanted to know where all of the unexpected people who started joining the protest at the end of the novel came from. In Delirium, people in Portland denied the existence of the Invalids, and through Hana’s story, we learn that people now realize the stories were not myths and these protesters exist. Because it is a recent development, I wonder how many of the people joining in on the fight (who were not sympathizers) have always been doubtful of the government, or if it was current events (the explosion in the Crypts, creepy!Fred, the revelation that Invalids exist, or this final scene) that convinced them to join in. I wonder if Lena’s attack on Fred is successful, if they manage to completely tear down the walls before the federal government sends in guards or troops to put the rebellion down. Do they live? Do they succeed? And if they do succeed, what are the implications? This is one city in an entire country where Amor Deliria Nervosa is still considered a threat. Are similar attacks happening throughout the nation (and if they are not happening yet, will they happen once other cities look at Portland, which was meant to set an example for the country, and orchestrate similar attacks)? Will the revolution in Portland be so strong that even if the government sends people in, they fight and win? And if they have Portland, what about the rest of the country? How much more will they suffer? How much longer will it take?

I love the beautiful ending, but in light of the events happening at that time, stopping the story without resolving anything or even hinting at a greater resolution somewhere in the future made the pretty words seem contrived. If the point of Requiem was not to tear down the government, but to simply proclaim that people should explore the unknown, think for themselves, take a chance and discover what love is regardless of what they’re told to believe by the government, then… the story has barely moved since Delirium ended (when Lena first left Portland to discover for herself what was outside its fence walls).

Honestly, I would not have been as disappointed with Requiem if even a throwaway line had been mentioned about what was happening elsewhere — in conversation, in the news, overheard by guards or Resistance leaders. Lena might not have been omniscient, but she did not live in a vacuum either, so it was not impossible to remember that this world extends beyond Portland. This fight is greater than one city or town. Harry Potter managed to do this through the Potterwatch broadcasts. The Hunger Games included communication and reports between the Districts, all revealed through dialogue. It seemed a little abrupt how, once Lena and co. arrived in Portland, the pacing had quickened immediately and all of a sudden, all of these people started tearing down the walls. It felt abrupt, random, and I think the ending would have made more sense if the story had naturally progressed to that point. A mention of other scheduled attacks, an intimation that this is the climax of the war that has been building for three books now would have benefited the novel greatly. (It wouldn’t have hurt to have an epilogue letting us know the answers to any of the questions I listed, just so I could close Requiem feeling like this is where Lena’s journey was always meant to go, this is what Lauren Oliver set out to do with Delirium since the beginning, this is what all their suffering accomplished and it was not a waste of their time.)

Additional Notes

I never read Hana’s short story, but I actually suspected while reading Delirium that Hana was the one who revealed Lena and Alex’s secret. However, I felt awful for thinking such a thing when she ended up helping them escape, and I tried not to think about that horrifying escape scene ever again. But then, the second Hana mentioned feeling guilty about something, I knew she was the one responsible. Honestly, I am not sure how to feel about this. On one hand, like Lena’s situation with Coral and Alex, I can understand where Hana is coming from. In their suppressive society, all emotion is discouraged. Like Lena, Hana would have had little exposure to feelings of jealousy and envy. Unlike Lena, she was also a privileged teenager, who could not have comprehended the consequences of her actions or how seriously they would affect not only Lena and Alex, but also the entire Tiddle family. Although I hate that this revelation makes me re-evaluate some of the later Hana/Lena friendship scenes in Delirium, I can see why she acted the way she did. I want to scream at her for the unnecessary conflicts she caused Lena and Alex (think about it — they could have escaped, traveled with the Resistance, possibly met their deaths with all of Alex’s other friends, but they would have had a short time to be happy with each other and before their final breaths (because I am a realist), they would have known little pain), but then, I want to hug her for what she must have endured every day after, all of that guilt eating away at her consciousness, ironically being the one thing keeping her from turning into a total zombie after the Cure.

I adore the bear scene with Lena and Alex in the beginning of the book, not because of the awful words exchanged (those still make me want to cry for the two of them and then smush their faces together because that is everything they actually want), but because of the way Alex attempted to take charge of the situation, only to discover that this “new Lena” was better equipped at handling the bear. It’s awesome to see Lena saving the two of them, but more importantly, I like how this scene reveals to Alex that the girl he knew in Portland has been through a lot since he last saw her. She’s changed, out of necessity. If this scene did not exist, then I’d always wonder if the Lena Alex claims to love is only his idea of who she was (that sweet girl from Portland he met in Delirium) instead of the person she actually is now. I imagine through the brooding and the sulking and the punching of Julian’s face (*sigh* Alex, seriously, talk to people!), Alex learned to love the changes in Lena as well. (Every time Alex said or did something cruel, my friend Thea and I would threaten to feed him to the bears, in reference to this scene.)

Julian was a symbol for Deliria Free America. He also had a serious illness. Why weren’t either of these things ever mentioned again when both of them were so significant in Pandemonium? His privileged past was brought up constantly to explain his slow pace in adapting to the Wilds, but why not his health? (Also, what does the DFA even do now?)

I suspected there was a traitor. (I did not expect it to be Lu though. But when it was, I wondered how I missed it.)

I loved hearing about the Tiddles through Hana, and seeing Grace (who now sings, since she revealed she can speak at the end of Delirium) again. I have so much rage for the Tiddles at the end of the novel, however, and part of me wishes Lena had encountered them again at the end, just so she could show them how strong she has become.

I’ve seen a lot of Alex comparisons to Peeta in Mockingjay. I disagree. Alex was tortured in the Crypts, whereas Peeta was tortured and completely brainwashed. Alex remembers Lena because the thought of her kept him going. His mind isn’t warped, not like Peeta’s, but he is being an ass… But only because his heart hurts. It’s no excuse for the elongated angsting, but it does help me know where he’s coming from.

Lauren Oliver’s twists on biblical stories to suit Delirium‘s purposes have always impressed me. I loved the addition of the Story of Solomon and the way it was distorted in both Lena and Hana’s journeys. I also love that this time, someone (Annabel) told Lena that the story actually had been tampered with, and that originally, the events and the meanings of similar tales were something completely different. I thought it was brilliant that Lena first used the false account to describe how she was feeling in reaction to the fact that Alex hated her or did not love her at all, and then later, Alex used the real story to tell her his true feelings.

I appear to be in the minority, but I actually enjoyed Alex and Lena’s “reconciliation scene”. I know it was a little understated after all of that angst, but considering they are actually in the middle of a “battle” at that point in the book, there is so much intensity and action going on around them that a simple scene, where the two of them share a brief conversation and a kiss, sufficed for me. (I don’t understand how anyone can read this book and not realize that Lena chose Alex. It wasn’t even a choice — she says she loves Julian, but not in the same way she loves Alex. It just took the two of them ages to confess, and it is implied that after their fight (probably after this fight, and not the impending war), they’ll find each other and finally be together.)

I initially found Lena’s reunion with her mother anticlimactic, primarily because in the previous books, the mystery surrounding her mother was built up so much that I expected some spectacular scene for when we finally encountered her. Instead, Requiem introduced her calmly and quietly. The universe didn’t explode; there were no earthquakes. After rereading Requiem and discussing it with all of my friends, I came to appreciate this subtle scene more. It’s not a hugely complicated, incredibly climactic moment, but it is realistic. It’s the kind of moment an estranged mother and daughter who loved each other but have been separated for years would have in real life. With some awkwardness, quiet conversations, accusations, and acceptance.

Although I forgave Hana and sympathized with her situation, I was really glad Lena actually slapped her when they met up again. I was waiting for the “I had nothing! He was my one thing, my only!” outburst from Lena because right after Hana revealed she was jealous of her, I had to pause and shout, “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? YOU HAD EVERYTHING!” before I could even try to put myself in her shoes. I do love that this dialogue actually led to an unstated forgiveness between the two of them because even though they are no longer the same people, they can still aid each other, they can still support each other. They still care about each other. I don’t think there is any way, in the event that they both survive the war(s), that they can ever fully salvage their friendship again, but I like to think that eventually they can mend part of that relationship over time.

I have to reiterate this because it is still bothering me greatly, but why is Alex a shadow of a character in Requiem (who only appears to leave cryptic messages, brood, or pretend to be in love with a random girl)?

I cried for Thomas and Rachel, Raven and Tack (I love that they go midnight trapping together), Annabel’s story about Lena’s dad, Grace when the Tiddles abandoned her, Alex and Lena when both of them were being idiots, Julian when I realized Lena would have to finally break his heart, and Hana (when I realized there was a possibility she could be married to creepy!Fred for life). This book thirsted for my tears.

The title Requiem means a mass for the dead, the mourning for the end of something. My friend Thea said in spite of its title, this novel made her feel like she was “mourning for an ending that never came”. Had this final novel been more conclusive, I think the title could have actually fit (but because it wasn’t, I have no idea why it is even titled this).

When Lena started witnessing the downside of freedom with the anarchist new age Resistance group, she thought about how maybe the Zombieland was preferable to this. Throughout Requiem, when she felt too hurt by love, she considered the alternative. She never takes the statement back though, which is what I expected her to do in the ending. In Alex’s short story, he has similar thoughts and he compares the unfeeling world they live in to snow. “Maybe we’d be better off.” But then he says, “How could anyone who’s ever seen a summer — big explosions of green and skies lit up electric with splashy sunsets, a riot of flowers and wind that smells like honey — pick the snow.” I wish Lena had ended her thoughts like this (because wow, that is gorgeous).

Overall, Requiem is a beautiful novel filled with moments that make you want to laugh, cry, scream, throw the book into a wall, and question everything. If you’re looking for a compelling installment of the Delirium series that enriches the world Lauren Oliver has spent the last two books creating, then you should definitely pick it up. However, if you seek a satisfying finale to a trilogy you have been following since its publication (and you hate open-endings), then you, like me, may feel a little disappointed.



8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brenna
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 11:12:23

    Aimee, your review of Requiem may just be my favourite (yet). And I’ve read a umber of them, but none have captured my feelings about this book as well as you do here. I don’t agree with everything (I’m a fan of the vague ending, mostly) but you nailed my emotions perfectly.

    I’m also really confused how Julian’s illness never comes up again in Pandemonium or Requiem. It’s a small thing, but it BUGS me.

    The Lena & Alex communication fail is so frustrating! I ranted about this as well because it was so gratuitous.

    But other than that, YES she chose Alex. Yes, this is beautiful and the theme of freedom is so important. That became very clear to me in Requiem and I’d like to re-read Delirium AGAIN to see how I feel about it with this in mind. Hanna’s POV grew on me, because I love how it contrasted with the Portland we knew in Delirium and Lena’s life as part of the resistance.

    Brenna from Esther’s Ever After


    • aimee
      Mar 15, 2013 @ 11:57:32

      Thank you so much! (I can’t believe you read all of that. It took me two weeks to write because I had so many thoughts and I couldn’t review this book without thoroughly discussing all of them, so it ended up being…longer than I intended.)

      The ending is complicated for me. I like what it represents, and it’s an interesting, stylistic choice to leave it ambiguous, but I have absolutely no closure on this story or these characters (partly because the rest of the book, with Alex and Lena’s communication fail (haha, I’m just going to call it that from now on, thanks) and so many missed opportunities with everything else, there was already so much that Requiem didn’t do that the lack of an ending stood out to me more (to the point where I went insane writing my own conclusions because all I ever wanted was for Lena and Alex to be happy and to live in a world where they could be happy and this book denied me both). I’m hoping over time, when I reread these books and am less frustrated, I might be able to appreciate the conclusion more.

      YES! I kept waiting for anyone to defend Julian when they’re judging him for not adapting as quickly and mention his illness, but no one, not even Lena, did. :/

      That’s the same thing I love about Hana’s POV too. I only hate that so much was time was spent on her investigation of Fred’s wife when it could have been used to answer any of the questions I still have about this world/this book. (Which is the same reason why gratuitous Lena/Alex communication fail annoyed me. They could have saved space in the book to answer things Requiem failed to answer. *sigh*)

      I also want to reread Delirium again to see how the series’ overarching themes fit into all of the books. And I really miss the “delirium” of watching Lena and Alex fall in love again. I miss those scenes so much.


  2. Thea
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 11:59:40

    “Which is why I cannot comprehend why Alex fails to play a significant role in Requiem (aside from a few scenes he shares with Lena, his character does little and adds little to the plot).” YES, EXACTLY. I was so excited to see how he and Lena would participate in the ~final showdown~ but… yeah, that didn’t happen.

    And dude you’d think that two people who loved each other enough to risk their lives by breaking all the rules would also have the courage to confront each other over a misunderstanding.


    “I love that Lena’s mind starts recalling passages from “The Book of Shhh” about the symptoms and side effects of Amor Deliria Nervosa. She begins to understand that they are not completely wrong when they say love is dangerous, love is maddening, or love can make you do things you’d never consider. In some ways, it can be a disease because of the way it messes with your mind and emotions and prevents you from acting rationally (especially when you’re feeling petty or jealous for the first time).” I loved this about the book as well. I loved that Oliver didn’t present us with only the happy and romantic side of love, but also its darker aspects… although part of me wishes that, after doing this, she could have made it clearer why exactly love was worth fighting for, despite the pain. But that was impossible to put across to the readers given the facts that: 1) Alex was merely a background character; 2) the confrontation with Hana was anticlimactic and unsatisfying; and 3) Lena’s mom didn’t play as big a part in the story as she should have had.

    “I didn’t want Lena and Alex to move mountains — I just needed some reassurance that all of their suffering wasn’t pointless… It wouldn’t have hurt to have an epilogue letting us know the answers to any of the questions I listed, just so I could close Requiem feeling like this is where Lena’s journey was always meant to go, this is what Lauren Oliver set out to do with Delirium since the beginning, this is what all their suffering accomplished and it was not a waste of their time” MY FEELINGS EXACTLY.


    • aimee
      Mar 15, 2013 @ 12:09:34

      This is probably not a necessary response, since all of our Requiem discussions basically led to this review, but YES TO ALL OF THIS. I thought Alex’s short story, that pretty metaphor about the snow and the world of color, did more to convey why love was worth fighting for over the Zombieland than all of Requiem.

      AND YEAH, SERIOUSLY, LENA AND ALEX HAD NOTHING BUT A TINY MISUNDERSTANDING BETWEEN THEM. Sure, they’ve both been through a lot, but I don’t think that calls for angsting for THE ENTIRE BOOK. It’s sad because they basically denied us and themselves a ton of happiness… over literally nothing.

      Oliver didn’t present us with only the happy and romantic side of love, but also its darker aspects… although part of me wishes that, after doing this, she could have made it clearer why exactly love was worth fighting for, despite the pain. But that was impossible to put across to the readers given the facts that: 1) Alex was merely a background character; 2) the confrontation with Hana was anticlimactic and unsatisfying; and 3) Lena’s mom didn’t play as big a part in the story as she should have had.

      THIS so much. I don’t know if it’s because we talked about this book already or because you now live inside my head, but these are my thoughts exactly.

      *mourning for that epilogue we never got*
      *wonders if there is some really good, basically canon lena/alex fanfiction that can give it to me because i don’t even know how long it will take before i can think of this book without being upset, laughing maniacally, or crying*



  3. Trackback: [Top Ten Tuesday] Top Ten Endings That Left Me With My Mouth Hanging Open | penmanshipsmitten
  4. Grace
    Aug 05, 2013 @ 02:23:04

    My goly, you are the most AMAZING person EVER! I think I just sat here for an hour reading this absolutely FABULOUS review and nodding my head vigorously, agreeing to many of the points you made. I want to thank you so much for writing this and putting all my jumbled thoughts out there on the web, and in such a well organized way! I would never have been able to accomplish such a feat, I had way too many emotions jumping all over the place and it would have been so overwhelming.
    I’m really hoping Lauren Oliver will write some sort of conclusion, another novella, or even just an epilogue chapter released on her site or anything of the sort that would wrap up all the loose ends.


    • aimee
      Aug 05, 2013 @ 06:45:31

      Wow, thank you so much! Requiem was a difficult book for me to review because I wanted to love it (it’s probably obvious, but I am a huge fan of the previous books in the trilogy), and then it just failed in so many ways… but wasn’t an unnecessary addition to the series – which I guess is what I hopefully managed to convey in this post). So it took a while for me to reconcile the things that worked well in this book, and what I wish had been done differently because I had higher expectations for this book that simply weren’t met. It felt a lot like rambling to me, so I’m glad my thoughts were coherent and somewhat organized, and I’m glad others feel the way I do (I really didn’t want to judge the book too harshly because I had built this series up a little inside my head, having hated dystopians and yet adored the first two books regardless). It was definitely an emotional read, and YES, I would love ANYTHING – an epilogue, a novella, even a Q&A online – that allows Lauren Oliver to tie up loose ends, and allow us to finally wish these characters and this world a farewell (knowing, for a fact, that they actually made it, and their cause succeeded and was not in vain).

      (And thank you for taking the time to read this entire review! Emotional books always leave me with SO MUCH to say, especially when it’s the final book in a trilogy or series, so I know how much time that had to have taken, and it, and your comments, are much appreciated. 😀 )


  5. Grace
    Aug 05, 2013 @ 02:27:12

    Oh, and I also want to mention that I think you are fantastic and deserve sooooo many more comments on this review because it’s awesome!


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