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Disease: Deliria
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This article contains major spoilers about the Delirium Trilogy.
Love, the deadliest of all deadly things: it kills you both when you have it and when you don't.
Cover artist
Michael Frost, Erin Fitzsimmons, and Cara E. Petrus
Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
Publication date
January 1th, 2011
Preceded by
Followed by

Delirium is the first novel in the Delirium Trilogy.


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 Haloway 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.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.


Lena Haloway starts off Delirium counting down the days to her cure. Even on the day of her evaluation, Lena works on her interview procedure with her aunt Carol. She enters the interview procedure alongside her best friend Hana Tate expecting an average score which would secure her a reasonable match and allow her to proceed to college.

Upon her first interview, Lena starts to panic, in part because she remembers her mother's apparent suicide, and as a result her answers are a little bit out of the ordinary. When asked what her favorite book is, she says Romeo and Juliet because it's about sacrifice and beauty and then answers that her favorite color is gray instead of a safe color like blue or green. Just as everything seems to be going downhill, a stampede of cows interrupts the evaluations as a protest of the cure. Lena catches her first glimpse of Alex Sheathes, a boy who laughs and winks at her, leading her to believe he is an Invalid. When she tries to inform someone of his presence, he disappears.

Lena later runs into Alex again when she is out jogging with Hana and they trespass on government property. Alex introduces himself and Lena sees a three pronged scar behind his ear (a sign that he got the cure) before learning that he is nineteen. Alex then persuades Lena to meet up with him on several occasions. The first time Alex hints that he wants to meet her at Back Cove.

She makes it to Back Cove that night, but does not see Alex.  When she sees him at a party, they agree to meet up at a beach. When Lena gets there, Alex and she race to the buoys where Alex confesses that her suspicions were right: he is an Invalid and his procedure scar is fake.

Although she is scared at first and runs away, Lena and Alex end up seeing each other again after Lena goes to a party to warn Hana about a raid. The party gets raided before Lena can get her out, but Alex saves her from an attack dog and hides with her in a shed outside. They also share their first kiss that night after Alex informs her she won't necessarily be happy if she's like everyone else.

The next day, Hana learns about Alex and Lena's relationship, and eventually agrees to cover for Lena whenever she and Alex hang out.  The three of them start to hang out in the Deering Highlands, most often in 37 Brooks

On one occasion, Lena is taken beyond the fence lines of the society and into the Wilds by Alex, where she learns of the true destruction her society did to those for refused the cure.

Lena is later reminded how fragile it all is when Carol brings Lena's pair, a boy named Brian Scharff who has already been cured, to their house. Lena finds herself unable to relate to Brian and more than ever wants to be with Alex. Things go from bad to worse when Alex catches a glimpse of her and Brian holding hands.

When Lena goes to 37 Brooks to explain, she ends up telling Alex of her mother and the pin she always wore. This leaves Alex dumbfounded, saying that Lena's mother, who she thought dead, might be alive.

The next day, Lena and Alex go to the the Crypts. Alex shows her his father's burial spot, which reveals Alex's real last name, Sheathes, and his last name assigned to him, Warren.  In Ward Six, Lena and Alex discover only Lena's mother's old cell as Lena's mother has escaped to the Wilds using only her pin.

After leaving the Crypts, Lena believes that no one cares about her anymore, not even Alex.  Alex refuses to believe this, telling her that her mother gave her up for Lena to be safe; because she loved her. Alex then says he also loves Lena, and Lena responds by saying, "I love you too." Lena and Alex plan to run away to the Wilds, because Lena cannot imagine a world without love, without loving Alex or Grace or her mother.

When Lena tells Hana about her plans to escape to the Wilds, Lena realizes that she is on her own and while she offers for Hana to come with them, Hana refuses, still fearful enough to cling to the society they have always known.

While visiting 37 Brooks that night to give Alex some supplies they need for the Wilds, regulators discover her and Alex, and while Alex manages to escape, Lena is arrested.

Lena is then placed under house arrest, and her family gives her sleeping pills and tie her to her bed to stop her from escaping. They also move the day of her operation closer so she can get the cure.

On the morning of her operation, Grace helps Lena escape by untying her bonds, and Lena then flees from her window to an awaiting Alex below with a motorbike. A chase follows and upon reaching the fence Alex tells Lena to climb and to never look back. She looks back anyways, seeing Alex sacrifice himself for her and remembers what she thought so long ago about Romeo and Juliet and how beautiful it was. Alex's last word to her is "run". She does, believing that Alex has sacrificed his life for hers and that love is not a disease, but rather the only way to survive.

Characters Edit

  • Lena Haloway - The protagonist. She is an ordinary seventeen-year-old girl who just wants to live a normal life; to get the cure and be paired like everyone else. However, when she meets Alex Sheathes, she starts to question whether everything she knows is really the best for her. She is played by Emma Roberts in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Alex Sheathes - A nineteen-year-old boy who works part-time as a guard and has the three-pronged scar of the cured. In reality though, he is an Invalid who was born in the Wilds and works for the resistance. He falls in love with Lena and tries to show her a world past the cure and constant regulations. He is played by Daren Kagasoff in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Hana Tate - Lena's best friend. Like Lena she is also seventeen and waiting for the cure but rather than following all the rules of segregation like Lena, she wants to have fun; listen to illegal music and go to parties with uncured boys. She is played by Jeanine Mason in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Carol Tiddle - Lena's aunt. A woman who has lived her entire life by their society's rules without resistance; she represents the perfect citizen of their society, without love, strong emotions, or empathy. She did not appear in Delirium (TV Series).
  • William Tiddle - Lena's uncle. Like Carol, he represents life with the cure. Lena works at his store, the Stop-N-Save. He also did not appear in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Rachel Haloway - Lena's sister. She is paired and cured and living a life without love. However, Lena reflects on how loving her sister was before and how much she has changed since the cure. She is played by Erin Cahill in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Grace Tiddle - Lena's cousin. She is unable to speak due to the trauma of losing her mother. She and Lena are very close. She did not appear in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Jenny Tiddle - Grace's sister. She and Lena do not particularly care for each other. She did not appear in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Brian Scharff - Lena's mandated pair. Meeting him makes Lena realize how much she will lose if she is cured. He made an uncredited appearance in Delirium (TV Series).

Mentioned Edit

  • Annabel Haloway - Lena's mother. Lena recalls how her mother's cure failed and that she experienced love and other strong emotions all the time. She disappeared when Lena was six and Lena's been told all her life that she's dead--until she finds evidence that seems to indicate otherwise. She appeared in flashbacks played by Melinda Y. Cohen in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Warren Sheathes - Alex's father. Despite being alive until Alex was fifteen, the two never met and he in fact never knew he had a son. Alex keeps a legacy of him by constantly retracing the name on his grave as the letters fade away. He did not appear nor was he mentioned in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Marcia Tiddle - Lena's cousin and mother to Grace and Jenny. She died before the events of Delirium due to a heart attack which may have been caused by being legally indicted in place of her husband who was a sympathizer. Lena uses her story to explain why people must be guarded against extreme emotion. She also did not appear nor was she mentioned in Delirium (TV Series).
  • Conrad Haloway - Lena's father. He died several months after she was born due to a brain tumor and she only has vague memories of him. He had an uncredited role in Delirium (TV Series) and his story in the show is similar to the story of Annabel Haloway in the novel.


Lauren Oliver says that the inspiration for Delirium came to her one day at the gym. She had recently read a Gabriel Garcia Márquez essay where he said that all books were either about love or death. Since her first book, Before I Fall, was about death, she wanted to write a book about love. At the gym she was watching a news report about a pandemic, and the two ideas combined in her head to form the central concept of the Delirium Trilogy.


Delirium is the first installment of a trilogy. Two midquels between the first and second books, Hana and Annabel, were released on February 28 and December 26, 2012 respectively. The second book, Pandemonium, was released on February 28, 2012. The third and final book in the trilogy, Requiem, was released on March 5, 2013. Another midquel, between the second and third books, Raven, was also released March 5th, 2013. The midquels were made into one book, Delirium Stories: Hana, Annabel, and Raven, released the same date. Another midquel, also between the first and second books, called Alex, was released with the first edition of the final book in the trilogy, Requiem.


Fox has ordered a television pilot based on Delirium. According to The Hollywood Reporter actress Emma Roberts was cast as Lena Haloway, the main role. In February 2013, Gregg Sulkin was cast as the role of Julian Fineman, one of Lena's love interests, but was changed to be the love interest of her best friend Hana Tate for the show. On February 25, 2013, Daren Kagasoff was cast as Alex Sheathes, the male lead and Lena's love interest. Karyn Usher penned the pilot, with Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope as executive producers. On March 1, 2013, Jeanine Mason was cast as Hana Tate. On May 8, it was reported that Fox has decided not to pick up Delirium.


Delirium was a New York Times bestseller. It was released to largely positive reviews, including starred reviews from Kirkus and the School Library Journal. NPR wrote, "Oliver writes beautifully, with well-measured mastery. The references to The Book of Shhh and The Safety, Health and Happiness Handbook, 12th edition, are exquisitely artful touches."