Book vs. Movie: The Giver

giver_bookvmovieThe Giver is an award-winning book written by Lois Lowry about a futuristic dystopian community of “Sameness.” The book was written in 1993 – before the teen dystopian literature era took off so I guess you could say it was before its time in two ways!

Because most middle-schoolers end up reading The Giver as part of their curriculum, I don’t want to go into the novel or movie details. However, I will share that the novel was originally written by Ms. Lowry as a result of realizing her father was losing his memory. This sad, negative situation was developed into imagining a society that had lost its memory; that is, it had no past. Eliminating a “history” means that many ingredients making up that “history” must also be eliminated. The protagonist in The Giver is Jonas, an 11-year old who lives in this resulting community known as “Sameness,” a seemingly utopian society where everything is the same and everything is equal. Jonas, through a developing uniqueness, is able to see past this “sameness” and perceived utopia.

After 18-19 long years of hoping and trying to bring the novel to the big screen, Jeff Bridges, who plays The Giver in the movie, successfully premiered the movie on August 11th and opened it nationwide on August 15th. I have seen it twice: I attended a special showing on premiere night and then saw a regular showing about a week later. I had been anticipating the release of this movie since last August when I first learned that Taylor Swift was going to play a small, but important character role of “Rosemary.”   As a Swiftie and a lover of Lois Lowry’s Giver Quartet (of which The Giver is the first novel), my excitement was barely containable!

So because I saw the movie twice within one week, you probably think I LOVED the movie the first time and went back to enjoy it a second time. Not exactly . . .

I was actually disappointed when I saw The Giver movie the first time. I thought the beginning was very rushed. I was annoyed by the changes made in the movie. I sort of expected the movie to be a bit more accurate because I had read they kept writing, discarding, and rewriting the screenplay in those 18 or so years. And I was extremely “let down” that the anticipation of the movie was over.

When I saw it the second time, I went into it expecting to be disappointed again. (I had promised my friend to see it with her.) Surprisingly, I found I liked the movie this time. I really did!! So what changed?

Yes, compared to the book, the beginning is rushed. But you can’t fit a 200+ page book into a two-hour movie. So, I guess I’m okay with that. The “rushed beginning” still set the stage for the movie which was what it needed to do.

As for the changes in the screenplay . . .all the people involved, including Lois Lowry, agreed that the movie stayed true to the book’s storyline. So who am I to get upset with the changes? Yes, the movie is different than the book.   But that’s not necessarily a bad or negative thing.

And as for being “let down” . . . I left the movie the second time feeling more satisfied, happier, seeing the positives more, and appreciating the movie for its differences. I actually LIKE the movie and hope that the other Lois Lowry books in The Giver Quartet also find their way to the big screen!

-Danielle L., 7th grade

Book Review: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

giver_coverAuthor Lois Lowry does an amazing job in the unique, science-fiction novel The Giver. The highly-anticipated movie adaptation just released on August 15. Have you seen it?

In the novel, we are introduced to a boy named Jonas, who lives in a utopian society that has eradicated conflict, poverty, unemployment, divorce, injustice, and inequality. In the annual Ceremony, where every twelve-year-old gets a life assignment prearranged by the Elders, Jonas is selected to inherit the position of “Receiver of Memory.”

When Jonas spends more & more time with the Giver, he learns the power of wisdom. Even though the people in his community have been shielded from life’s many problems, Jonas realizes that they do not know about the things that give life meaning such as sunshine, color, music, and love.

Becoming wiser everyday, Jonas doesn’t want to bear all the memories, both joyful and painful, by himself. He wants to share the many freedoms with his community, even if it means disrupting the safe, current life of innocence and order. Together the Giver and Jonas formulate a plan that will have instant, severe outcome on the entire community, especially on Jonas himself.

Jonas, portrayed by Brenton Thwaites in the movie, is naïve in the story and I like how he matures during the course of the story. One main reason I liked this book is that it is unlike other dystopian novels I have read. The Giver is one of the books that I have read over and over again because it is so well written. This is truly Lois Lowry’s masterpiece and in my opinion she totally deserves the John Newbery Award for it. The ending of The Giver was not the best, but I have not read all the books in the Giver Quartet. It might make more sense in the latter books. I am especially excited to see the movie because I loved the book. It’s been hard waiting for the movie to be released, but I am going to see it for sure.

-Anmol K., 7th grade

Fictional Worlds I’m Glad are Fictional

Books have a way of taking us to new and exciting places, and a lot of times those are places we wish we could go visit. Places like Hogwarts and Camp Half Blood are places that captures a reader’s heart and make you wish you could just jump through the pages and join in the adventure– and yet there a few fictional worlds that I am very glad are just that… fictional.

hunger_games_coverPanem – The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

While the The Hunger Games is a great trilogy full of action and excitement, the country of Panem is one I’m glad exists only on paper. The thought of being entered into a drawing and forced to fight to the death at such young ages is something that I am glad I don’t have to worry about. Even though the concept that drives the story is something that I’m sure almost everyone would be against if it was implemented in society, there is something that makes it incredibly alluring to read about. The huge disconnect between the Capitol and the districts is something that in a way is reflective of our own government, and I think this is part of why readers are drawn to strongly to the story. This draw is further enhanced by Katniss’s incredible drive to protect those she loves, something which also aids in making the story relatable. Overall, the world of Panem is one that we can love to hate.

giver_coverThe Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver takes place in an unnamed, futuristic society that at first glance is a utopia. Everything in this world is designed to make life as pleasant and convenient as possible; everyone is always polite, there is no war, no sickness, essentially everything unpleasant about life has been eliminated. Through reading the book and following the story of Jonas, the child who has been given the job of the Receiver of Memory at the Ceremony of Twelve (12 is the age at which children get their assignments, or roles they will play in the society), the reader begins to see that this utopia comes with a price. By eliminating all negatives aspects of life the society has really eliminated what makes people, people, something that Jonas learns while receiving the society’s collective memory. The Giver is a great reminder that even though life can be painful and unpleasant at times, it is these struggles that make life great in the long run.

fahrenheit451_coverFuturistic America – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The world of Fahrenheit 451 is another world that could be considered a utopia, however its flaws are more readily visible than other stories that feature utopia societies that dissolve into a dystopian society as the story progresses. In the society portrayed in the book people lives are all about quick gratification and easy living, they don’t think for themselves or having meaningful conversations, rather they settle for cheap thrills like driving their cars far too fast and letting technology essentially brainwash them into confirmatory. The biggest thing that sets the world of Fahrenheit 451 apart from our world is that books are illegal and fireman start fires, not stop them. Books are burned to prevent the spread of ideas and keep society uniform. With this restriction of thought it’s easy to see why that is a world better left on paper.

Overall, while there are many great fictional worlds that I would love to visit there are some that I am certainty glad are safely contained on the pages of books.

-Angela J., 12th grade

What Would Katniss Everdeen Read?

In Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss’ life seems very busy. But in the times that she is not spending as the star of the books, what does she do with her extra time, other than hunting, of course? Here are a few books that might catch Katniss’ attention.

giver_cover1. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
The Giver is about a young boy named Jonas, who becomes trained by the elderly Giver, to eventually learn about the world outside of the controlled dystopian society. Katniss would enjoy this book because she could relate to Jonas’s frustration that there was no possible escape from the dystopian society. She would also relate to Jonas when he was learning about emotions and color, since before she went on her Victory Tour, she knew nothing about the other districts. However, both characters then developed a deeper understanding about the world around them because of their unique experiences.

2. The Maximum Ride Series, by James Patterson
The Maximum Ride series is about genetically modified ‘bird-kids’ who are trying to protect each other from several wolf-human mutations, not to mention the lab which created them. Katniss would enjoy this book because Max, the main character in this series, is a lot like Katniss in that they both care about their family and others to extreme measures. Max treats the other ‘bird-kids’ that live with her as family, even though they are not the slightest bit related. Likewise, Katniss makes the ultimate sacrifices for her sister, Prim, as well as her ally in her first Games, Rue.

3. My Brother Sam is Dead, by Christopher Collier & James Lincoln Collier
My Brother Sam is Dead is about a boy whose older brother goes to fight in the Revolutionary War. Being the younger brother, he always looked up to and wanted to do everything his brother did, always believing that it was special or fun. In this book, he wanted desperately to fight in the war. Katniss felt this way when she was being filmed during the war against the Capitol, which caused her leave safety of her protectors and cameramen and fight on the front line with Gale.

Now you’ve heard what I think Katniss would read in her spare time, what do you think? Are there any other titles you can see Katniss pulling off the shelves to read? What do you think she would read in the solitude of the woods on a peaceful afternoon? Let me know in the comments section below.

– Leila S., 8th grade

Book Review: Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

gathering_blue_coverIf you’re in middle school, you’ve probably already read or are going to read The Giver, a John Newbery Medal award winning science fiction novel by Lois Lowry. I decided not to do a book review on it so in case you haven’t read it yet, you won’t be dying to read it before you’ve been assigned it.

By the way, The Giver is being made into a movie and will be coming out around August this year. If you are a big Swiftie, like me, you’ll be excited to hear that Taylor Swift will be playing a character in the book named Rosemary.

The Giver is actually the first novel of a quartet by Lois Lowry.  The second, third, and fourth novels are Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son respectively.  (You don’t necessarily have to but it helps to read the books in order.)

This review will be on the second book, Gathering Blue.  A thought-provoking book, it took me longer than usual to read this one. A bit less exciting than The Giver, but nonetheless a wonderful book. It takes place in a dystopian future, where a girl named Kira is orphaned after her mother’s death. She was born with a bad leg in a harsh society that shuns imperfections. To her surprise, she is taken in by the Council of Guardians, given a comfortable room with food and indoor plumbing (which is a rare and generous thing in this era), and allowed to pursue her beautiful and amazing talent: embroidery. She trains with an old woman in how to make dyes, and is given the task of restoring the robe worn by the Singer once a year, when he sings the history of the world to the people of the village. Things are pretty good, but Kira comes to realize not everyone and everything is so true and kind…

I’m glad I didn’t give up on finishing this book; it was definitely worth the read! I can’t wait to start the third book in this quartet! I understand it ties the first two together!

-Danielle L., 6th grade

Book Review: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

giver_coverLois Lowry does a great job of completely engaging the reader in this story.  The meaning of the “precision of language,” the odd recalled memories, and the speaker telling everyone what to do is quite odd at the beginning of the story.  Jonas, an eleven year old boy, is living in a futuristic town and is feeling… apprehensive, as he would call it… for the Ceremony of Twelve.  For each year as the people in his Community grow up one year, there is a ceremony where something happens to them.  At eight years old, you get a jacket with pockets signifying maturity to hold onto your own things.  At nine, you get a bicycle with your name on it.  (Bicycles are the only transportation within the Community.)  At Twelve, you get assigned your job; that is what Jonas is apprehensive about.

The ceremony goes more quickly than he thought and when each twelve year old boy or girl is assigned his or her role, the community elders skip over him.  Only at the end they announce his assignment.  He is assigned something very special… to work with The Giver.  Jonas learns that not only will he have his lifetime job to be with The Giver and replace his job, but also experience the pain of the memories transmitted to him.  Two big themes I found important in this story were love and conformity, which always remind me of the song “All you need is Love” by the Beatles.  This conveys the message being told in the story—all you really need is love and a bond between you and someone else.

When I finished this book, I was not completely satisfied, but very moved.  I felt that this is not how our future should look.  The conflict between Jonas’s knowledge and the transmitted memories was very interesting.  I would recommend this book to any middle and high schoolers who have some time on their hands to really get the gist of the book.  Have fun!

Maya S., 6th grade

6th Grade