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.