Re-Reading “The Giver”

I’ve been re-reading much of my SF collection over the past couple of months, and am currently on Lois Lowry’s The Giver. And I’m even more impressed with it than I was the first time I read it.

What strikes me this time around is her use of language. On the surface, the book is written at an age-appropriate level for the primary target audience (teens). But she uses that age-appropriate language to convey bigger themes and subtle nuances that you would never find in (say) a Nancy Drew mystery. I kept catching myself thinking over some surprisingly sophisticated idea she’d just conveyed, realizing that I had picked it up without consciously noticing it, and then reading back over the preceding paragraphs to see exactly how she’d done it.

You can look at this book as a complement to Heinlein’s juveniles. Heinlein conveyed to a similar audience a number of similar themes (I read both The Giver and the juveniles as pro-liberty, pro-individual – whether or not that is Lowry’s intention or reflective of her philosophical alignment), but did so in a more overt way, one stylistically appropriate to the action/adventure-focused nature of his stories.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I heard it was pretty weak by comparison to the book – which is to be expected, given the themes and the way they play out in the latter. But I highly recommend the book, even to adults – and especially to adults who want to write for the teen or young-adult markets.

Cognitive Dissonance

Sci-Fi’s Hottest New Writer Won’t Tell You the Sex of Her Characters

The book contains a noteworthy social/political message, which is why it merits discussion, and why it is being brought to your attention, and why you should read it.

Until people mock it for being propaganda.

At which point said message is downplayed as a minor element, one you don’t even notice, mere decoration really, with no relevance to the plot, easily ignored in fact — no, no, the storytelling is why you should read it.

I’ll take this as an indication that I ought to skip this one. Along with the fact that it won a Hugo.