book of the month

I recently joined an online book club called Book Club Bloggers. Each month we are assigned a book to read and then we will post on our separate blogs our thoughts and feelings. I'm always reading, so this isn't too difficult for me. But I do find that describing my thoughts on a book are difficult. I tend to forget certain points, or I can't adequately describe what I liked or didn't like about it. So I can't promise that my reviews will be very meaningful or insightful, but bear with me as I stumble through this!
Our first assigned book is The Giver. I have read this book twice before, in middle school. I have long considered it to be one of my favorites and have meant to reread it now that I'm much older. So this was the perfect chance to do so! It was also a good book to start out with, as it's a simple, easy read.

I won't write a quick summary of the book here. Either you've read it or you haven't. If you haven't, you probably shouldn't continue reading this post! Here we go:

It's come to my attention that this book is controversial and there is debate on whether or not it should be read in elementary schools. This surprises me, as I can't comprehend what is so controversial about it! First of all, I firmly believe that from a young age we should be encouraged to learn about and question different beliefs and ideas. And second, doesn't that stem from the same notion of what The Giver is about in the first place? Our right to make choices, to be aware of what is pleasant and what is not, no matter what our age?

As mentioned earlier, I'd read this book before and the same things stood out to me as the first time: the red apple and the red hair, the character's struggle for the word apprehensive, and the lonely and scared feeling of his not being called upon at the Ceremony of Twelve.

But this time I found myself yearning for a more adult novel, one with more detail. One that answered such questions as:

How did they achieve climate control? How did they make a medication to prevent Stirrings? How did they stop seeing in color? How did they prevent animals such as birds from entering their communities? If Elsewhere exists, how do they prevent the outsiders from interfering? Does Elsewhere really exist or are there endless communities like Jonas'?

And most importantly: How the heck did they convince everyone to go along with it, to stop feeling, to stop wanting to hate as well as love?

All in all, the meaning of The Giver is very straightforward: There are things in life that we will experience that are both dreadfully bad and exquisitely good. The bad may be horrible, but how can we truly appreciate the good if we don't have the bad to compare it to? The most important thing is choice. 

" 'The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.' "


Charlotte said...

I don't know what you're talking about - this is a great review! I love the comparison between schools banning "The Giver", and the subject matter of the book... you're spot on about the need to make choices and be presented with different ideas.

The need for more detail seems to be a common thread with other adults I've talked to, who have read the book. Some ideas and situations exist too easily, but it's Lowry's world, and it's one that understandable for a pre-teen. I assumed they stopped seeing in color due to genetic modification (genetically controlled colorblindness).

Also, as I stated in my review, I think it didn't take much convincing to give up hate and love. Strong emotions lead to conflict. Conflict leads to pain. Pain leads to suffering. Get rid of, or learn to control, the strong emotions, and everything else will disappear. (It's a very Buddhist or Jedi outlook.) Eliminating pain has its costs. Dang, I think I'm going to add the above statements to my review!

Thanks for participating! Great review. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Charlotte - a great review. And you answered my question that I was curious how "second time readers" have changed their view during the years, this was very interesting for me.

And I like the quote that you have chosen - it summarises the book in a good way.

Laura said...

I love your questions about the details. I now realize I kept myself mentally distant and purposely did NOT ask these questions in my mind because I felt it would make me too attached & upset me (per my own post).

Awesome comments!

Molly said...

Andrea! This is a great review. And I feel like Charlotte's echo but you ARE spot on in comparing the banning of the book to one of the lessons I thought Lowry was trying to communicate in the Giver.

Also I could not agree more with the book or you when you wrote, "The bad may be horrible, but how can we truly appreciate the good if we don't have the bad to compare it to?" Well put.

I'm so excited that you decided to play along. :)

katie said...

great thoughts! i'm glad you brought up the details, or lack thereof -- i honestly didn't even think about that on this reading, probably because i was specifically approaching it as pre-teen lit. i agree with char though that colorblindness was probably genetically modified. i have thought before about how they got everyone to agree to this initially, even though we know it's many generations before the story takes place. my inference was always that there was some huge, tragic conflict/disaster that took over the planet, and in the aftermath people were willing to surrender their autonomy and self-determination for peace and security. (that interpretation is also consistent in at least one of the other books that occurs in this fictional universe.) glad you played along -- thanks for making us think! =)

Rachael said...

I agree with Charlotte, this IS a great review! I totally wondered some of those same detail-things this time around. That's why I like Kim Stanley Robinson's books... He writes about whole societies and sci-fi and whatnot but also EXPLAINS everything so you feel like you're learning so much (but all cool stuff) every time you sit down with one of his books. But I digress... Yeah, my brother doesn't ever get back pain so he never appreciates back rubs like my dad and I. I always felt sorrier for him than myself.