Oliver’s artfully detailed prose reveals, brick by brick, the sturdy dramatic foundation of an initially implausible premise. In her dystopian America, love has been outlawed as the life-threatening source of all discord. Citizens submit at the age of 18 to a neurological procedure that "cures" them of amor deliria nervosa, the chief symptoms of which are passionate feelings about anything. Poetry and contact between members of opposite sexes are forbidden; the authoritarian government rules with suspicion, violence and bureaucratically arranged marriages. As Lena, the soon-to-be-18 narrator, approaches the date of her procedure with both trepidation and relief, she meets Alex, a boy who inspires feelings that upend everything she has believed about her community and herself. Lena’s gradual awakening is set against a convincing backdrop of totalitarian horror. Chilling epigraphs from the government's rewritten histories begin each chapter, providing contextual propaganda so thorough that they've even reinterpreted the Bible to suit their message. The abrupt ending leaves enough unanswered questions to set breathless readers up for volume two of this trilogy. (Science fiction. 14 & up)
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