****Spoiler Alert: Requiem is the third book in a trilogy. Read this review only if you’ve read Delirium and Pandemonium. If you’re just considering getting into the series, check out my review of Delirium, which I’ve reposted below****
This one has to start with a few notes.
First, I love-love-love Lauren Oliver and the Delirium trilogy. This was one of those event books I was counting down to and planning ahead to drop everything for. Again, I’ve reposted my Delirium review below, so you can check that out for context.
Second, I’m aware that it’s damn near impossible for there to be a perfect ending to a lead-up as intense as this series. I accept that.
That said, let us proceed to this crazy fangirl’s best attempt at fairness.
Lena and the other rebels who’ve escaped the procedure to cure them of amor deliria nervosa (love) are no longer being ignored by the authorities in the regulated cities. The Wilds where they’ve taken refuge are under attack, and Lena is forced to fight back in a full-scale resistance alongside both Julian, the boy she’s just rescued from the cure in Pandemonium, and Alex, the first love she’d assumed dead after he was shot while rescuing her from the cure in Delirium. Meanwhile, in regulated territory, Lena’s former best friend, Hana, is coming to realize that her own cure may not have been entirely successful, and that her assigned fiancé, the soon-to-be mayor of Portland, is still a dangerous psychopath in spite of his.
With Lena spending almost the entire book in the emotionally unregulated Wilds and Hana’s storyline limited almost completely to people who can’t be completely cured, the very powerful basic concept of the trilogy doesn’t get to shine as much as in the previous two books. The moments when ordinary love is made breathtakingly special by its contrast with a total absence of love are present but fewer and farther between, making it feel more like any other dystopian rebel epic. The body count demanded by such an epic also means there are a lot of background characters who aren’t quite worth getting to know. I won’t spoil which shippers come away triumphant (or whether I was one of them), but I will say that, after a full book’s absence, and with the scarce and mostly negative showing Alex gets (he’s got some issues to work out after escaping from the Crypts), he’s a lot harder to root for than he probably should be.
It’s Lauren-freaking-Oliver. It’s some gutsy, cutting, and seriously poetic prose. The bloody dystopian rebel epic storyline may not be as innovative as the original Delirium concept, but it’s still a fantastic bloody dystopian rebel epic, and like everything Oliver does, she makes it fresh. Even without the ever-present feeling-free backdrop that threw the drama of the first two books into such sharp relief, she can still cut through the numbness of a jaded reader. She still unfailingly makes me cry and cringe and cower at all the right moments as only the power of a good book can.
Those throwaway background characters actually do add to the surrounded-by-death feel of the rebels’ world in a way extras’ deaths seldom do, partly because it’s very clear that their deaths do not mean that the main characters are safe. No one is. Nothing is. The first two books set a clear enough precedent that no horrifying detail of this universe will be glossed over or sanitized when it arises, but Requiem really pulls all that lurking horror into the light, pushes it as far as it can go, then pushes farther, without it ever reaching the relief of the cartoonish too-far.
The parallel storylines of Lena surviving in the impoverished and violent Wilds and Hana fearing for her life and her conscience in her fiancé’s pristine mansion offers a similar, if not quite as dramatic, contrast to the one the cure created in the first two books, with the added explosive tension of waiting for their two lives to collide again. The bonus short story included in Requiem’s first printing, while not essential to the overall story, is definitely worth getting your hands on. As well as being a gut punch in its own right, it offers the sympathy for Alex that’s hard to come by in the novel itself. In fact, I might recommend reading the short story first for that reason.
The end is… open-ended. Tidy conclusion to the epic it’s not, but it works with the spirit of the story. A world where love exists is untidy and unpredictable and uncontrollable, but it’s better than the alternative. That’s kind of the point.