My feelings on this book are mixed. On the one hand, I really enjoyed it. It's probably up there with John Green. It tackles some difficult issues and...moreMy feelings on this book are mixed. On the one hand, I really enjoyed it. It's probably up there with John Green. It tackles some difficult issues and it does it without seeming melodramatic. But on the other hand, a few characters are underdeveloped and I could do without the poems/vignettes Deanna wrote at the beginning of some of the chapters.
Story of a Girl follows sixteen-year-old Deanna who has a reputation for being the town slut. However, Deanna has only been with one guy, Tommy, her brother's drug buddy who happened to be seventeen when she was thirteen. Tommy spread his side of the story so now the whole town knows. And her father caught her in the act. What could be worse you ask? Oh, her brother had a kid with his girlfriend, and her only two best friends, Jason and Lee, are dating. Life definitely sucks for Deanna.
To make things worse, she gets a job at a pizza place that Tommy works at. Her Dad still hates her. And things are awkward with her friends because she has a psuedo-crush on Jason.
Yes, sucks to be her. But she doesn't do all the self-pitying that I hate in YA. She gets over it and manages to get over her problems. Sure she cries a lot, but people do that. She gets herself together and talks about her issues. God, I hate when people don't communicate. This book pretty much handles all those awkward things instead of running away from them. And it doesn't do them in a disgusting way. Most of the plot lines were interesting. I was worried about her boss, Michael, turning into a gay stereotype. But he narrowly managed to avoid it.
Now her friends were a bit underdeveloped. I would have liked to see more of them. The fact that they play a pretty big part of the story, but are only two dimensional kind of annoyed me. I would have liked the father to come around a bit sooner. I did like how the teen pregnancy was handled, and how she settled things with Tommy. You can't hold a 13 year-old responsible for that sort of stuff. Especially when the guy is 4 years older than her. Sex was handled pretty maturely in this. None of it was gratuitous. There wasn't that much cussing either. Nor was their any alcohol, but they were smoking pot. I'd suspend my belief on this, but they were in some backwater town north of California. I don't know why it felt like they were in the suburbs of Seattle. I guess because this reminded me of Twilight in a way. Only a million times better. Deanna is like everything Bella isn't.
I'd say 3.75 stars on this. It was better than a Elizabeth Scott book. It was better than The DUFF. I'd even say it was better than half of the books Sarah Dessen has written. The writing was a bit weak at times, but over all it was pretty good. It stayed on melodramatic at times, but quickly pulled back. I'd check out another Sara Zarr book anytime. (less)
I didn't read The Giver in elementary school. It was presented several times, and each time I decided to read something else. Perhap...more**spoiler alert**
I didn't read The Giver in elementary school. It was presented several times, and each time I decided to read something else. Perhaps because the cover bored me? Because I thought it would be slow and dull? I don't know. We were never told what the book was about. So I decided, in my second year of college, to read The Giver. It was on sale for Kindle and it's short -- a nice intermission between Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exhiles.
Up until a year ago, I didn't even know it was science-fiction, let alone a dystopian novel. I didn't know that the author was female, either. Color me surprised to find a dystopian novel with no love triangle that preceded the YA glut of sci-fi light with a young MC that still managed to keep me interested in ways that 1984 and Brave New World did not. This kind of book is far and inbetween. Yes, yes, the previous novels are filled with interesting ideas and concepts, but the language puts me to sleep. I forced myself to finish them when my father assigned them to me years ago. I'm sorry to say this, but I have no attention span.
Now I want to read Number the Stars and Fahrenheit 451 -- two other novels I thought would be boring in fifth grade, that were also on our reading list, though we were never told what they were about. I feel like revisiting upper MG -- and adult sci-fi -- since modern YA sci-fi is currently oversaturated with drippy love triangles and non-sensical worldbuilding.
In a way, this reminds me of Animal Farm, or the inevitability of a society like Animal Farm, sans the egoistical leaders. I've read AF several times, it's something of a favorite of mine. Books like it, and Lord of the Flies and The Chocolate War are primers for dystopian novels. They try to convince you of the inherent evil (or rage, or whatever) in society, and the necessity for more control.
It's interesting that this is thought of a novel about individuality. Yes, Jonas is spechul (I have no idea how the magic in this novel works, but I take it that his powers are some kind of genetic mutation due to the multiple experiments done for the sake of sameness), but his spechulness doesn't make him seem like a Christ-figure. He's no Jack, no Snowball. He's just a boy. He desires for everyone to hold the same amount of wisdom. Yes, we could say that The Giver is God and Jonas is Jesus, but that would be a vast oversimplification.
I didn't read The Giver as an attack on socialism. Perhaps a simplistic take on socialism, but Lowry never portrays the society as evil. In fact, there is no true "villain" here, in any mustache twirling sense. The antagonist is society, or dare I say it -- The Giver himself.
I would assume that Lowry has read Plato's Republic because the society in her novel mirrors that of what Socrates describes to Cephalus. In the beginning, Jonas is strangely unsatisfied -- empty. He is like Thomas Anderson, but less obvious. Given the choice, before The Giver came into his life, he would've chosen the blue pill. He would've chosen happiness. Now, we can argue that it isn't true happiness, that with no understanding of pain and lust and love, you cannot have any true meaning in life. And, certainly, that is what the novel appears to argue. But I'd disagree.
If The Giver is to be seen as Morpheus, he who wakes Jonas from the dream, then he is also to be seen as the serpent in the garden. He who uproots Jonas from his life of safety, and the "appearance" of free will. But that's what it really comes down to. Choice. And I wouldn't necessary say that Lowry argues in favor of it. Her protagonist dies with a child in his arms in a scene reminiscent of "give me liberty, or give me death." I can see why this novel is so popular, as it rings true with a belief that founded this country.
But is free will truly the better option? Would Jonas, like Thomas Anderson, continue his life of emptiness if he stayed within the community, unaware of love and all other emotion, if he continued to take his pills? And if he remained content, free of suffering, is that a lesser existence? After all, that is what the Jehovah of the bible intended for Adam and Eve. Christianity is the leading religion of this country.
Now, I've watched The Matrix several times, and while I'm rather disturbed by Lewis Carroll's *ahem* interesting biography, I've read Alice in the Wonderland. For those of you unfamiliar with The Matrix, here's the famous line that Laurence Fishbourne delivers --
"You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."
So many times have I watched and read Alice in Wonderland, I'm not convinced that Wonderland is analogous to the fake world, or the illusion. After all, staying in Wonderland means accepting that The Matrix is an illusion, and therefore, lesser. But, if we are to believe The Giver (and Morpheus) are not Jehovah, but the serpent, then we know that he is able to lie. Wonderland is the escape, the world with true emotion that makes Alice's life pale in comparison. Now, Carrol took a variety of drugs while writing the novel, which is why there are terms like "k-hole" and songs like "white rabbit" and books like "Go Tell Alice," but Wonderland is not simply a mirror of our world. It is our world. Note that nothing of consequence happens in Alice's "real" world, yet Wonderland is overtaken with wars and prejudice and consequence (even if it is seen as non-consequential, or silly). But Morpheus does give partial truths, even while we know that Wonderland is Zion.
Anyway, on the matter of choice, Jonas is forced to take the blue pill. And I'm not quite sure Lowry portrayed this as the "better" choice, unlike The Matrix. While Neo is so obviously the christ figure, Jonas is not. He does not stay to redeem his people. He doesn't sacrifice him. He selfishly steals a baby, unaware of the consequences that it would have for the child's life. The Giver actually shows a dystopian/utopian society in a much more positive light than any of its predecessors.
Lowry actually offers no real reason as the why living a bland life is worse than having free will, other than that having a full range of emotions provides richness. But if you are unaware of these emotions, you miss nothing. Yes, Socrates argues that lack of variety (sameness) does not present an opportunity to feel happiness, but happiness isn't exactly a good thing in her society.
We're raised to believe that freedom and free will are good things (recently, psychology says that more choices lead to unhappiness, fyi), but that's what I find so brilliant about this book.
It argues against that.
By offering having no emotions, people are free of guilt, and love, and jealousy, and hate -- those which create the "evil" dystopian that we all have read about, with the dictator and the mustache and the twirling and the wars. But here, Lowry doesn't bother demonizing the society. She presents it somewhat honestly.
So, I'm kind of amazed that this is taught as the novel on free will and independence, that Jonas is a christ figure, and that it is seen as the "children's" version of 1984. 1984 never explores the positives of no free will. It's very black and white. Same with Brave New World and Animal Farm and A Handmaid's Tale. This novel is taught exactly like the others, but I feel like the message is misinterpreted.
For me, this novel is so much deeper than the others because it challenges your preconceptions about freedom without using a heavy handed brush stroke of American "choice." One could argue that lack of free will with no suffering is meaningless, but according to determinism, there is truly no "free will."
There are some horrors present here -- such as the "release" of infants, the elderly, and those who commit three crimes -- but it's never seen as "wrong" except through the eyes of Jonas, who's overcome with emotion (remember, he is the only one who feels strong emotion). And it's not as if Lowry argues against free will either.
One of the more interesting ideas in this book is that people are restricted from lying, and that conciseness of speech is taught from an early age. Really, only freedom of thought and imagination are restricted. And while they are good things, she makes no argument as to why we need them.
I suppose that's why I'm conflicted. This society can't be compared to Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia, or Mao's China. There's no propaganda, no hatred. The people are content and fed. Their leaders, the Elders, truly believe they are protecting their people by shielding them from "reality" and have no true malice.
She has not created a malevolent Totalitarian society. And, to conclude, I'm not truly convinced that the "message" of this book is that freedom -- whatever that means, as not even we, Americans, have "true" freedom -- is better than complacency with no suffering. That a "meaningful" life, is better than none with no meaning at all. Who decides what is meaningful? And is better to feel and to choose or to never experience suffering? The story or Rosemary, The Giver's daughter, would side with the latter, in my opinion.
And that scares me. I've been raised to believe it without ever being offered any alternative. From an early age, we're taught that choice is good, control is bad. But how much control do you really have over your life? And does that control always bring you happiness? Perhaps this is why Ayn Rand puts me to sleep.
Note to self, get a copy of Jacking into The Matrix.(less)
So, I just watched the movie. It is excellent. I have never seen a better book to screen adaptation. Quite possibly the best movie of '12. Though I'm...moreSo, I just watched the movie. It is excellent. I have never seen a better book to screen adaptation. Quite possibly the best movie of '12. Though I'm kind of sad the subplot with Charlie's sister was cut.
I wish Chbosky would write another book. This isn't perfect, but it will always be my favorite YA book.
Now, if Chbosky adapts and directs The Catcher in the Rye my life will be complete. Then he can do Looking for Alaska and Into the Great Wide Open and The Rhythm of the Road and I might die from happiness.
I'm not going to write a real review. Other people have summed up my feelings quite well. You'll either love it or hate it, and I understand both perspectives. I, however, love it.