So, it took me a grand total of 5.5 hours to read Son by Lois Lowry to fulfil challenge #35, A Book Set in the Future.
I’m glad that I chose to add this book to my challenge, despite the fact that it has been on my bookshelf for at least a year, gathering dust. All in all, it was a fitting end to a saga I didn’t realize I was awaiting an end to.
I read The Giver for the first time in 9th grade as part of a book club in my high school. I didn’t realize that it’s considered a young adult novel, simply because the themes therein were so advanced, I’d only assumed it was a novel for teens. It wasn’t until I spoke the following month with my fellow readers that this book is generally read in 5th or 6th grade for the first time.
One of the people I spoke with mentioned that she reads it over and over again and notices something different every time. Imagine that, reading a book at age 13 and picking up something different at age 16. When you’re young, the concept of sameness is what you pick up on. Everyone eats the same food, shares the same clothes, they all ride a bike given to them by the community. There’s no rain. There’s no sun. There’s nothing that makes anyone more special than others. And the children themselves aren’t allowed to be individuals. No birthdays…because that would make someone more important than others on random days. Can’t have that.
As you grow older, you begin to notice that these kids have no say in their future. Their lives are chosen for them by a set of elders. What career they end up with, their spouse, their eventuality of having children…which are processed and given to them by “birthmothers,” a career path chosen for the less fortunate TWELVE YEAR OLD who wasn’t quite as attentive in their studies. The community is even forced into taking pills that control their emotions…because God forbid they feel anything.
And even when you grow older and return to the books, you realize that the community “releases” (i.e. kills) those who don’t subscribe to the community. Too old? No longer a contributing member? Deformed child? Maybe that child just develops slowly? Let’s kill them.
This is a book that stuck with me. Sure, it’s targeted towards a younger audience and there are SEVERAL books that I could read that are more adult-driven that deliver the same concept…but I think that’s the point. This is a kids book. Why are these themes being discussed?
While I was teaching film in Miami, I did a unit on utopia vs. dystopia. The idea of a perfect world. We addressed the question of, “does a perfect world even exist?” And when you get right down to it…if it were truly a perfect world and everyone were happy with it…there’d be no story! No conflict. Inherently, someone has to disagree with the utopian ideals as they’ve been established in order to create drama–the story. (I taught the concept by showing The Truman Show (a utopia that turns out to be not-so) and V for Vendetta (a dystopia). It was a fun month.)
GETTING BACK ON TOPIC
After I thoroughly enjoyed The Giver, I discovered that Lowry had two other related but unrelated books in the series; Gathering Blue and The Messenger. Gathering Blue was its own book. It took place in a different community (same time period though, different part of the world) and was all about a girl named Kira learning to survive with a disability after her mother dies at the age of 15. Mind you, this is a community where, once again, if you don’t contribute, there’s no need for you. So it was a constant struggle for Kira to survive.
However, Gathering Blue had nothing to do with The Giver. Similar themes. No similarities in character.
Then there was The Messenger. The third book in the series managed to bridge The Giver and Gathering Blue in a way that was completely unexpected. Jonas (from The Giver) and Kira (from Gathering Blue) managed to meet up and start their own community, which was the focal point of The Messenger.
However, the story itself wasn’t about their interaction. It was about a new character named Matty. There was never any sense of finality with Jonas’ and Kira’s story.
Thank goodness for Son. It was everything I wanted in a final book. You hear how Kira and Jonas made out. You hear about Matty after the fact. You get to revisit every single one of the previous communities and see how everyone else fared. In essence, it was a conclusion. And a conclusion was exactly what this series needed.
If you’ve ever read any of the other books in The Giver quartet, I highly recommend you brush up on your reading (come on, it’ll take you two hours to get through both Gathering Blue and The Messenger) so that you can finish what you started.
The next book I’ll be tackling is #49, A Book Based on or Turned Into a TV Show and for it, I’ll be reading Naked Heat by Richard Castle. Because if you’re going to make a TV show about a writer…the writer should have some published works, shouldn’t he?
When New York’s most vicious gossip columnist, Cassidy Towne, is found dead, Heat uncovers a gallery of high profile suspects, all with compelling motives for killing the most feared muckraker in Manhattan. – Castle Wiki
Side note, I pray every day that this wasn’t actually ghost-written by Nathan Fillion…because then I might never get through it.
And for those of you keeping track at home, here’s the current challenge list as it stands on June 21, 2015.