I have fallen behind on my library reading and saw that I had hours left on Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Fredrik Backman’s The Deal of a Lifetime so I binged on them last night. Both are reviewed below.
First thanks to Gina aka Silverdust for recommending The Giver to me. I’ve seen it on dozens of lists and known about it, but just never added it to my TBR pile. I think we all probably have books like that, the I’ll-get-around-to-it-someday book.
The Giver is, without a doubt, a young adult novel. Written in 1993, it has the “feel” of a YA novel that many current YA novels don’t, perhaps because it feels so didactic in nature and simple in telling. While it includes some world-building, no explanation is given as to how the society came to this point.
The “Community” is a dystopian, supposedly perfect society. Everyone behaves. There are no colors. There is no music. There is no dancing. A committee picks the perfect match for each person. After the passing of several years, they may apply to have a baby given to them. The society is very sterile. Pills are given to lower the sex drive. Real emotions have been eradicated.
Jonas, the protagonist, is worried about his year 12 ceremony in December in which his future will be determined. No one anticipates, except the Committee, that Jonas will be the next Receiver, the keeper of all memories.
It is at this point, when Jonas meets the Giver (the previous Receiver), that Jonas, as well as the reader, views how horrible the “Community” really is. Once you can see colors and feel happiness and love, can you ever accept a society in which this has all been taken away from you? What if the alternative is starvation and war? Would you surrender emotional and intellectual freedom for a stable society?
As Jonas takes on new memories, both wonderful and horrible, Lowry pulls on the reader’s emotion and heartstrings. There exists no concept of “animal” in the “Community.” All of the animals have been eradicated. In this time of threatened repeals of endangered species acts and conservation acts, Lowry’s warnings feel acutely appropriate.
I would definitely recommend The Giver to anyone who enjoys reading YA dystopian novels. While the ramifications of the subject matter are not innocent, the telling and nature are gentle so it might appeal less to readers who prefer blatant darkness.
4 out of 5 butterflies
You’re successful. You have all of the money you could ever need. It means nothing. You have been obsessive, never happy, because it’s only obsessive people who ever achieve anything. And happy people never do.
So what would you do when you think you could be dying, but you’ve thrown all of your relationships away? What if you met a wonderful little girl with a profound imagination who was dying of cancer, what would you do?
These are just a few of the philosophic questions in Fredrik Backman’s very short novella, The Deal of a Lifetime. Beautifully written and introspective, it’s an excellent addition to the Backman oeuvre.
4 out of 5 butterflies