Lena must decide whether she will succumb to be lobotomized of the deadly disease called, Love. Lena is reaching 18 years old, the age where she will become eligible for the "life-saving" surgery that will remove the part of the brain that is at risk for the disease of "Love". She is excited and nervous at the upcoming surgery and wishes to do everything right and become an official, integrated member of Portland. Lena's Mother succumbed to the disease called Love and killed herself. Lena's sister almost did the same thing but the surgery saved her at the last minute. Lena is determined not be mess up. She lives with her Aunt and Uncle and younger cousin, Grace. After the procedure, it is normal that the "adult" will then be paired in marriage to another "cured" individual (cured meaning a person who has undergone the surgery).
Before she is eligible for the surgery, Lena must go to the laboratories to be interviewed and get a physical. These interviews are to determine the kind of personality she has as well as whether she might be susceptible to the disease (ie. be too much of a romantic, not sensible in nature etc.). Lena goes with her best friend, Hana, to the laboratories for the interview. Lena is nervous because some of her answers are a bit out of the ordinary despite having practiced for days to prepare appropriate answers. At the end of the interview there is a commotion - someone has released cows into the laboratories. The cows are apparently a protest against the cure, calling the cure "Death". Lena spies a boy in the rafters of the lab, laughing.
Later on, when Lena and Hana find themselves back at the labs during their run, they meet Alex, who is apparently a guard. Lena is interested and intrigued by Alex. Alex asks Lena to meet him at Black Cover after curfew. Lena manages to make up an excuse to get out of the house after curfew but she is caught by some Regulators - volunteers who sweep the streets at night to make sure there are no invalids/uncureds or illegal love-related activities/trysts and such happening after dark.
One day, Hana tells Lena that she has got her hands on some illegal music and that she knows of an illegal party that will take place later that night. She convinces Lena to come with her, even though Lena does not want to break any rules. At the party, she meets Alex again and her feelings towards Alex grow. She is filled with confusion as to her new-found feelings - she doesn't want to succumb to the disease and she's afraid if she does get the disease her family will suffer and be ostracized.
Over the next few days, Lena lies and finds ways to hang out with Alex. Their relationship grows stronger and Alex, trusting Lena, reveals that he's not from Portland. He reveals that the scar on his neck - the scar that usually indicates someone who has undergone the surgery - is fake and that he actually an invalid/uncured. Lena is shocked and runs away.
Her relationship with Hana is suffering, too because Hana is more rebellious than Lena. Hana wants to experience all the daring things that Portland society frowns upon - listening to illegal music, joining illegal parties. Lena is too afraid of breaking the rules and too afraid of what it would mean if she did break the rules, knowing her family history with the disease. One night, the Regulators conduct a raid, which means they check every house to find "Sympathizers" - people who don't believe in the cure. Lena, knowing that Hana is out at a party, rushes to the party's location to warn her so that she can escape before the raid gets to them. She gets to the party too late. During the escape, she runs into Alex again. As they are hiding, Alex explains who he is, how he was raised by invalids in a free society. Lena has her first kiss with Alex and falls hopelessly in love.
Alex and Lena find an abandoned house on 37 Brooks Street to have their lover's trysts. One day, Alex trusts Lena enough to tell her there is a way for Lena to get out of Portland and visit his real home out in the Wilds. Out in the Wilds, Alex shows Lena his home which is a mobile trailer. He explains that the invalids living out in the Wilds have no electricity and have to live off the land.
Back in Portland, Lena meets with her official "pair". Her pair sort of guesses Lena's situation but assures her that the cure will fix everything. By this time, Lena is almost certain the cure is not for her - that she wants to live, free to love, like Alex. She meets with Alex again and he suggests she runs away with him and lives in the Wilds. Lena is still uncertain because she remembers what happened to her mom. Her mom killed herself from love and destroyed her family - Lena doesn't want the same to happen to her. Alex tells her that her mother may be alive.
Lena and Alex go to the Portland Crypts - the place where crazies, uncureds and people with failed procedures are kept away from society. Alex reveals that his own father was kept in the Crypts until his death because he refused to conform to society. When they arrive at Lena's Mother's ward, they discover that there is a big hole there from a previous bust-out at the Crypts. Lena's mother is likely alive and has escaped into the Wilds. Lena is filled with mixed emotions, both anger and joy. Angry that her mother didn't somehow find a way to send a message that she was alive and happy that her mother wasn't dead. Lena finally agrees to escape into the Wilds with Alex.
Lena tells Hana her plans - that she's not going through with the procedure and that she's going to run away with Alex. Hana is angry at Lena for leaving her behind on this crazy plan. Even though Hana is more rebellious that Lena, she still chooses to go through with her own surgery.
On the night of her escape, she meets Alex at the abandoned house on 37 Brooks Street. Somehow, the Regulators find out about them. Lena is captured and shut up in her room by her Aunt and she's signed up for an early procedure to cure her from her madness. Alex escapes, much to Lena's relief. They keep Lena under tranquilizers and tie her up. Hana helps Lena to escape and reunite with Alex. They almost make it to the gates and out into the Wilds, but the Regulators catch up with them and severely/maybe even fatally injure Alex. Alex tricks Lena into running into the Wilds without him, sacrificing himself for her freedom.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that Love is considered a disease in this story and Lauren Oliver even made up fake book quotes and retold passages from the Bible etc. to make the dystopian society more realistic.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Alex released the cows into the lab and Lena sees him in the rafters, laughing. It is a surreal moment and the first time she sees Alex.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Lena has changed so much since the beginning of the book, from a law-abiding, timid girl to a rebel who is not afraid of trying new things.