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A world without love in Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium”

Love hurts. There’s not a single person on this planet who will tell you they’ve never been hurt because of love. It drives us crazy, makes us erratic. We become irrational, unable to concentrate, a little jealous, and we start caring less about our own wellbeing and care more about the wellbeing of others.

It’s not easy being in love. It takes hard work, arguing, making up. It leaves us exhausted. And then there’s the pain. The inexplicable shattering in your chest when it goes wrong, when you get hurt. No one gets through being in love unscathed. It can break you. So it’s no wonder that in those times we wish we have never loved at all. We would take away the love we felt if it would take away the pain.

We’ve all thought it when the pain gets too much, when it hurts too badly. We’ve wondered what a life would be like devoid of love, how painless it would be. But what would a world without love really look like?

Lauren Oliver answers that exact question in her powerful dystopian novel, Delirium.

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing.

They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

Living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Portland, Maine, Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life. She watched love destroy her mother and isn’t about to make the same mistake.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena meets enigmatic Alex, a boy from the “Wilds” who lives under the government’s radar. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?


Delirium is one of those books that leave you completely captivated with wondrous awe, tugging at the heartstrings. Most young adult dystopian books are flowerily with love and give the story of boy meets girl and together they save the world.  This book is different. Oliver shows us what love really is: an all-consuming, brilliantly captivating, wrenchingly heart-breaking power that takes control over you. It turns your world around and shows you things you never saw or noticed before.

It is a well told, beautiful story that really opens your eyes to what emotion is. Even though we have all questioned if we’d be better not to fall in love or have it in our lives, there is no feeling quite like it. And Oliver shows us the truth about what it would be like to take love away: we would be empty.

It’s like those moments when we wish we could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but we have a feeling that if we did, the joy would be gone as well. If we took away love to stop our pain, we’d have missed all those good times that made loving worthwhile.

Oliver’s message in Delirium is this: when you lose love you lose compassion, happiness and even hate. You lose your ability to feel.

In Delirium, Oliver writes:

“That’s the thing: we didn’t really care. A world without love is also a world without stakes.”
— Lauren Oliver, Delirium

What a horrible way to live life, where nothing can be measured and you can’t feel for anything. No proper family, no friends, no proper husband or wife, but the same predictable thing that you go through each day. No excitement, no passion, just an empty feeling.

Near the end of the novel, she tells us:

“In a world without love, this is what people are to each other: values, benefits, and liabilities, numbers and data. We weigh, we quantify, we measure, and the soul is ground to dust.”
— Lauren Oliver, Delirium

No matter how painful love can be, love is what heals us. It is our haven from misery, and it makes living worthwhile.


  1. I read this book in high school and loved it! I need to go back and re-read it now, it’s been on my list for a while. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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