Saturday, June 28, 2014

Books: "The Giver" Edition

***WARNING: This post is long, and quite possibly boring.  But I've been wanting to write about books and such for a while now, so I'm indulging myself.***

I haven't been posting often because I am on a reading kick, and I'm afraid it will fizzle if I devote time to other things, like blogging.  Also, life hasn't been terribly interesting around here, so perhaps subconsciously I am saving my dear readers from boredom.  ;-)  (Although this post may very well be boring.)

But, seriously, I've been on a reading kick.  If you read my blog on a real computer (not a smart phone), you may have noticed two reading lists on the left side of the page: "Current" and "Completed." I keep those lists updated, even when I'm not writing blog posts.

***Side note: Since May 2003 I've kept a list of books I read (including the date I finish the book).  But I only list books I read on my own, nothing I was assigned for school (something I now regret since I was an English major and therefore read many, many books for assignments).***

If you look at the "Completed" list right this moment, you may notice I'm specifically on a Lois Lowry kick.  She's the author of The Giver and Number the Stars, both Young Adult novels that won The Newbery Medal.  You may or may not know that The Giver has been adapted into a film (click here to see the trailer), set to release August 15, 2014.  I can't remember if I first read The Giver on my own, or for school (I think on my own, then again for school); either way, I've read it several times.  I love it.  Lois Lowry's writing style is simple and straightforward, something I like, and it was the first novel I read about Utopian/dystopian societies (also something I like).

Bless my soul if I didn't recently discover that The Giver is now a quartet of books!  (Perhaps this would not be breaking news if I was still in middle school.)  I immediately reserved the next three titles from my local library, as well as The Giver (the last time I finished The Giver was February 26, 2006...eight years ago!).  I knew I would want to re-read The Giver after finishing the quartet.

I finished the final book of the quartet, Son, Thursday morning.  It was fantastic, and the perfect ending to the story that began with The Giver.  I'll quickly say that the second book of the quartet, Gathering Blue (published in 2000) did not seem to be related to The Giver story, but it was definitely a member of the same genre.  The third book, Messenger (published in 2004) picked up a few years after Gathering Blue left off, and linked Gathering Blue to The Giver.  Son (published in 2012) started right where The Giver started (a fact that thrilled me to no end since I am such a huge Giver fan), but was told from the viewpoint of another character.  Son successfully and beautifully tied up every loose end and answered lingering questions (questions I didn't even know I had), leaving this reader completely satisfied.  I can't wait to read The Giver again, at the risk of overindulging myself (I'm taking a little break from Lois Lowry by reading The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsioswn).

Why do I love The Giver so much?  There are three (main) reasons.  The first reason, as I stated earlier, is that it introduced me to a theme I enjoy reading about: Utopian/dystopian societies.  Books and movies with such themes are hugely popular right now: The Hunger Games trilogy, the Divergent trilogy, The Park Service trilogy.  The theme is nothing new; George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949 and Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931.  (By the way, I'll take Brave New World over 1984 any day.  Is that blasphemous?)

The second reason is that Lois Lowry writes an interesting and important book that is easy to understand, without overdoses of action and science fiction.  The newer books (The Hunger Games, etc.) are a lot more action packed than The Giver, and all of the Utopian/dystopian stories contain at least a small degree of science fiction.  "Action" and "Science Fiction" are not, in and of themselves, genres I generally gravitate toward, but pretty much any Utopian/dystopian book (or movie) interests me, even with high levels of action and science fiction.  However, I think books where the author uses a simple, straightforward writing style are often underrated.

The third, and most important, reason is that The Giver sends an important message: that we must think carefully about the future.  We must be deliberate about what we (and government authorities) choose to do today, because it can greatly impact (quite possibly in a negative way) the way we live tomorrow.  We must voice our concerns and opinions, even if they are unpopular.  It is risky and takes courage, but such a risk may be worth avoiding a life lacking in choices and freedom.  Just because the majority is going along with it and just because the government tells you to do it doesn't mean it's right.

The next three books in The Giver quartet contain those themes, but also focus on acceptance of differences, the importance of kindness and integrity, and sacrifice for the greater good.  In fact, I think there are strong Biblical references throughout all of the stories, and I would love to read up on whether others agree...I haven't read anything written about the quartet (reviews, message boards, etc.) for fear of getting completely sucked in.  :-)

About the film version of The Giver: I'm usually pretty forgiving when books are adapted into films (even my favorite books).  I realize that certain things have to change in order to get the same point across on the screen, and that parts have to be left out in order to keep the film at a reasonable length. However, based on the trailer, I'm afraid the movie will disappoint me because it seems a lot more action-packed than the book (and I think the book is perfect).  I suppose as long as the message of The Giver remains in tact, I shouldn't worry.

I sort of feel like I just wrote a paper for school (and because I am a huge nerd, it was fun).  I totally forgive you if you skimmed this post or skipped it completely.

Have you ever read The Giver?  Did you love it?  Hate it?  Feel indifferent?


Anonymous said...

I do the same thing Ashley, with the to read and read lists! I'll have to put The Giver and subsequent books on my list! Thanks for the review!
Aunt Shannon

Casey said...

I love you my smart, nerdy friend! The day I met you, or spoke to you the first time, you had a book in your hand! I wish I was more like you!

Chet and Ashley said...

Yes! But, if you don't like "The Giver" just skip the other ones... :-)

Chet and Ashley said...

Haha! Yes, I was reading when we first met. And you kept bothering me! I'm glad you did, otherwise I might have missed out on a great friendship!