Welcome to Day Two of the Official Delirium Blog Tour! Today we will be sharing an excerpt from chapter two of the book with you.
Here is the synopsis of the book, just in case you haven't yet read it:
Summary from HarperTeen: Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It's hard to be patient. It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't.
And now, please enjoy this excerpt:
We must be constantly on guard against the Disease; the health of our nation, our people, our families, and our minds depends on constant vigilance. —“Basic Health Measures,” The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook, 12th edition, p. 7
The smell of oranges has always reminded me of funerals. On the morning of my evaluation it is the smell that wakes me up. I look at the clock on the bedside table. It's six o'clock.
The light is gray, the sunlight just strengthening along the walls of the bedroom I share with both of my cousin Marcia’s children. Grace, the youngest one, is crouched on her twin bed, already dressed, watching me. She has a whole orange in one hand. She is trying to gnaw on it, like an apple, with her little kid’s teeth. My stomach twists and I have to close my eyes again to keep from remembering the hot, scratchy dress I was forced to wear when my mother died; to keep from remembering the murmur of voices, a large rough hand passing me orange after orange to suck on, so that I would stay quiet. At the funeral I ate four oranges, section by section, and when I was left with only a pile of peelings heaped on my lap I began to suck on those, the bitter taste of the pith helping to keep the tears away.
I open my eyes and Grace leans forward, the orange cupped in her outstretched palm.
"No, Gracie." I push off my covers and stand up. My stomach is clenching and unclenching like a fist. "And you're not supposed to eat the peel, you know."
She continues blinking up at me with her big, gray eyes, not saying anything. I sigh and sit down next to her. "Here," I say, and show her how to peel the orange using her nail, unwinding bright orange curls and dropping them in her lap, the whole time trying to hold my breath against the smell. She watches me in silence. When I'm finished she holds the orange, now un-peeled, in both hands, as though it's a glass ball and she's worried about breaking it.
I nudge her. "Go ahead. Eat now." She just stares at it and I sigh and begin separating the sections for her, one by one. As I do I whisper, as gently as possible, "You know, the others would be nicer to you if you would say something once in a while."
She doesn't respond. Not that I really expect her to. My Aunt Carol hasn't heard her say a word in the whole five years and three months of Grace’s life--not a single syllable. Carol thinks there's something wrong with her brain, but so far the doctors haven't found it. "She's as dumb as a rock," Carol said matter-of-factly, just the other day, watching Grace turn a bright-colored block over and over in her hands, as though it was beautiful and miraculous, as though she expected it to turn suddenly into something else.
I stand up and go toward the window, moving away from Grace and her big staring eyes and thin, quick fingers. I feel sorry for her.
Marcia, Grace’s mother, is dead now. She was walking down the street one day and—bam! Heart attack.
Hearts are fragile things. That’s why you have to be so careful.
It will be hot today, I can tell. It's already hot in the bedroom, and when I crack the window to sweep out the smell of orange, the air outside feels as thick and heavy as a tongue. I suck in deeply, inhaling the clean smell of seaweed and damp wood, listening to the distant cries of the seagulls as they circle endlessly, somewhere beyond the low gray sloping buildings, over the bay. Outside, a car engine guns to life. The sound startles me, and I jump.
"Nervous about your evaluation?"
I turn around. My Aunt Carol is standing in the doorway, her hands folded.
"No," I say, though this is a lie.
She smiles, just barely, a brief flitting thing. "Don't worry. You'll be fine. Take your shower and then I'll help you with your hair. We can review your answers on the way."
"Okay." My aunt continues to stare at me. I squirm, digging my nails into the windowsill behind me. I’ve always hated being looked at. Of course, I'll have to get used to it. During the exam there will be four evaluators staring at me for close to two hours. I'll be wearing a flimsy plastic gown, semi-translucent.
"A seven or an eight, I would say," my aunt says, puckering her lips. It's a decent score and I'd be happy with it. "Though you won't get more than a six if you don't get cleaned up."
Senior year is almost over, and the evaluation is the final test I will take. For the past four months I've had all my various board exams--math, science, oral and written proficiency, sociology and psychology and photography (a specialty elective)--and I should be getting my scores some time in the next few weeks. I'm pretty sure I did well enough to get assigned to a college.
The evaluation is the last step, so I can get paired. In the coming months the evaluators will send me a list of four or five approved matches. One of them will become my husband after I graduate college (assuming I passed all my boards. Some girls get paired and married right out of high school.) The evaluators will do their best to match me with people who received a similar score in the evaluations. As much as possible they try to avoid any huge disparities in intelligence, temperament, social background, and age.
The stairs let off their awful moaning, and Grace's sister, Jenny, appears. She is nine and tall for her age, but very thin: all angles and elbows, her chest caving in like a warped sheet pan. It’s terrible to say, but I don’t like her very much. She has the same pinched look as her mother did.
She joins my aunt in the doorway and stares at me. I am only 5' 3" and Jenny is, amazingly, just a few inches shorter than I am now. It's silly to feel self-conscious in front of my aunt and cousins, but a hot, crawling itch begins to work its way up my arms. I know they're all worried about my performance at the evaluations. It's critical that I get paired with someone good. Jenny and Grace are years away from their procedures. If I marry well, in a few years it will mean extra money for the family. It might also make the whispers go away, sing-song snatches that five years after the scandal still seem to follow us wherever we go, like the sound of rustling leaves carried on the wind: Sympathizer. Sympathizer. Sympathizer.
It's only slightly better than the other word that followed me for years after my mom's death, a snake-like hiss, undulating, leaving its trail of poison. Suicide. A sideways word, a word that people whisper and mutter and cough: a word that must be squeezed out behind cupped palms or murmured behind closed doors. It was only in my dreams that I heard the word shouted, screamed.
I take a deep breath, then duck down to pull the plastic bin from under my bed so that my aunt won't see I'm shaking.
Also check out this video of Lauren Oliver talking about her inspiration for Delirium and other fun facts about this amazing book:
Be sure to follow along with the rest of the blog tour for more exciting information about the book and more chances to win.
Monday: Between the Covers - Welcome to the World of Delirium
Wednesday: A Good Addiction - Meet Alex
Thursday: Mundie Moms - Meet Hana
Friday: Page Turners Blog - Meet Lena
Thursday: Mundie Moms - Meet Hana
Friday: Page Turners Blog - Meet Lena
And of course, check out Lauren Oliver's WEBSITE for more info on her and her books.
Now we'd like to offer you a chance to win your own copy of Delirium.
- You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter (sorry international followers!).
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- Giveaway ends at midnight CST on Wednesday, February 2nd.