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May 12, 2009

"The Giver" and "Gathering Blue"-- my reviews

I finished "The Giver" last night and also finished reading "Gathering Blue" while DD was at preschool this morning.

Both books are written by Lois Lowry. As I have mentioned in my previous post, "The Giver" was recommended to me because of my love for "Brave New World." Now that I have read "The Giver," I have to admit that I am deeply disappointed. First and foremost, I would never place these 2 books in the same category. Although both books explores alternative future societies, but that is the only thing they have in common. As a high school student, then a college student and later as a grown adult reading and re-reading "Brave New World," I was intrigued by the issues presented in the book. It made me recognize and come to terms with decisions and choices we come to make as individuals and as a society. Furthermore, it made me ponder the path we should or need to take to change the way we live and exist in a society (for better or for worst).

The same can not be said of "The Giver." The first 1/3 of the book careful describes this alternative future (an extreme future). In order to protect people in this society, individuals are not permitted to make choices, this is a society that values "sameness." The later part of the book follows the main character's journey of learning and questioning the society that he is a intricate part of. Perhaps the part that disturbs me that most is when The Giver passes his memory of the past (which clearly was meant to be the readers' present) to The Receiver (the main character) through a simple touch on his back. Somehow, this seemingly straight forward narration turned science fiction. With the transmission of past memory, not only that pleasure is felt by the main character, he is also engulfed by extreme pain of war, starvation and rage (you can pretty much filled in whatever bad quality one identifies with humans here). One of the many reasons why I dislike this book is that the symbolism in it is badly contrived. In addition, it merely scratches the surface of some of the major issues both "The Giver" and "Brave New World" wish to bring to attention. Where "Brave New World" successes, " The Giver" fails. Would I recommend this book to anyone, probably not. I think "The Giver" does touch on issues of individualism, individual rights, power, societal control, and marginalization, but the book lacks depth. Although I would not recommend this book to anyone, I will probably have DD read it in the future(10 to 13 years old). The plot is simply and easy to understand, so it will be easy for a young teen to read. And I do think that this book can be a good starting point for discussion about conformity and peer pressure.

If I was to give "The Giver" a rating, I would probably give it a "D." After reading "Gathering Blue," I would rate it a "D+" if both books are read together. "Gathering Blue" offers another type alternative future society that is very different from the one presented in "The Giver." similar to the "Giver," the society is carefully revealed to readers through the main character's eyes. In both books, after detailed descriptions of the societies, the rest of the plots appear to be hurried along, rushed and incomplete. In "Gathering Blue," the main character discovers that she is being held captive, along with 2 other young adults, for their special gifts (artistic intuitions). After realizing that she has been lied to and discovering the horrible truth of her father's murder, she chooses to stay with the society instead of escaping to a neighboring society that functions very differently from the one she resides in. She comes to believe that she has the power to change the world. Although an interesting attempt at constructing another extreme society, I think the author fails in providing any sort of evidence that the young girl truly has the power to change the world. Instead, the main character's decision to stay appears to be brought on by her childishness. She has no plans and no true hopes of how things can be changed. All in all, not a book I would recommend or a book I would have my child read.



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