Monday, February 22, 2016
"The Giver": A classic dystopia
My daughter Raina and I started our own two person book club. On Friday, we had our first meeting at Marzano's, a wood fired pizza place, to discuss our first selection, Lois Lowry's Newbery Medal winner, 'The Giver.'
Raina reads just as much if not more than I do. Most nights my husband and I need to repeatedly ask her to close her book and get to sleep. Sometimes after we have gone to bed, she gets back up, and takes her book under her covers to finish it. When the Book Fairs come to school, she is in heaven; she plans her purchases and after she has reached the limit I set, she dips into her own precious savings and goes on her class "buy day" and purchases every other book she was unable to get.
I knew all this, but I still wasn't prepared for how amazing it was to have a real adult conversation about a complex book with my 11 year old.
She's smart, analytical and quizzical.
Her analysis of the complex topics presented in the book were spot on.
If you are one of the few people who has never heard of "The Giver" or you haven't read it, it follows a boy named Jonas who lives in a utopia. Everything is fair. No one feels pain. No one fights. No one needs to make any choices because everything is decided for you. There are special, all inclusive ceremonies for age groups. All 9 year olds have a bike ceremony, and all 12 year olds have a special ceremony where they are given their assignments (jobs) in the society. At the assigning ceremony, Jonas is named the new Receiver and needs to attend special top secret meetings with the current Receiver. It is there, he begins to learn the truth about his world. And the truth isn't pretty.
Raina and I discussed topics in the book ranging from euthanasia to what it means to be a family. We talked about euphemisms and why people use them and we discussed the ambiguous ending of the book. Raina blew me away when we talked about language being controlled and about the nature of love and why a society might want to take away the power to love.
It was an amazing conversation and it made me appreciate my daughter as the unique and intelligent young lady that she is; I am so proud to be her mom.
Choosing 'The Giver' as our first book to discuss was perfect. At first when Raina started reading it, she told me, "Mommy, this book is a real snoozer." I told her to stick with it because it picks up and gets very interesting at chapter 7. She stuck it out and just as I suspected when she got to chapter 7, she was hooked. We even talked about how some books that have slow starts can still be awesome to read and the pay off can be even better than books that are quick to get through.
'The Giver' is a classic YA dystopia that even reluctant readers would enjoy (especially after they get through the first 6 chapters), but even more importantly, it presents so many important discussion points about the ways societies are run and individual rights, the importance of memories - good ones and bad ones, and why love can save us.
I highly recommend not only reading 'The Giver' but also reading the books that your kids are reading so you can talk to them on a literary level. I loved my first book club outing with my daughter. I can't wait for the next one.