Tag Archives: dystopia

J is for Jonas (The Giver by Lois Lowry)

J

The Giver was one of those books everyone around me is shocked that I never read. The thing is, many of my friends, especially in the writing community, are younger than me. They forget that while they read this in school, I was already in high school when it was released, and probably in college (or nearly so) by the time it hit curriculum in my district. So it was high on my list for my 100-book challenge this year.

This is a quick read, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is a fluff piece. Far from it. The Giver is one of the first YA dystopian novels, and its influence on more recent titles is apparent almost immediately. Jonas, our main character, lives in a community that has placed Sameness as its highest value. All history, emotions, even colors have been suppressed. The Rules of the community are many, and maintain a strictly regimented society. When Jonas is selected to be the new Receiver of Memory–the sole bearer of all the history of the world before Sameness–he begins to question everything he has always taken for granted, and wonders if humankind sacrificed too much in the name of peace and civility.

What sets this aside from so many of the newer dystopian stories is that there are many things about the community that seem at first to be very good. Everyone has enough to eat. People are polite to each other. Since everyone is taught not to focus on what makes each other different, there are no bullies. Everybody rides around on bicycles from the age of 9 up, so there is no smog, no traffic congestion. But with everything that Lowry unveils about the Community, you discover one more way in which individuality is discouraged. In trying to keep everyone safe and protect them from the ugliest parts of human nature, they destroyed the most beautiful parts as well. This is a world without music, without color, where language is required to be precise not expressive.

Jonas and his mentor, the former Receiver who now calls himself the Giver since he is passing all the memories on to Jonas, both see what the world has been. They understand the cost of changing their Community. But they also see that Sameness is not always good, not always worth what has been sacrificed. The ending is deliberately vague, and in my copy which had a Q & A with the author, Lowry says she meant it to be hopeful. I’ve heard mixed things about the rest of Lowry’s books in the quartet, so I think I’ll leave them for a bit. There is so much in this one to process that I’ll probably reread it once I’m done with my 100-book year. It is well-deserved of all the praise it’s been given, and I highly recommend it.

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A is for Adelice (Crewel World series by Gennifer Albin)

AIt’s the first day of the A-to-Z Blogging challenge, so I thought I’d kick things off with a personal favorite. Five years ago, I moved to Kansas City just before National Novel Writing Month began. I knew few people here outside of the roller derby community, and wasn’t working yet. At the first write-in I attended, I sat beside a kind, funny, welcoming woman who would become a cheerleader for me that month, and would end up winning NaNo herself right at the last minute. Two years later, I attended Gennifer Albin’s launch party for Crewel (the first book of a YA sci-fi trilogy), and fell in love with the world she created.

Crewel takes place in Arras, a world where powerful women called Spinsters are able to manipulate matter and time. Adelice Lewys can see the weave of the world all around her, not just on the special looms the Spinsters use. Unlike most girls at her school, who swoon at the very idea of being chosen as a Spinster, Adelice has been actively trying NOT to be selected. Her parents have been training her to hide her gift, for reasons she doesn’t fully understand until after she slips during the last day of testing, and touches the weave. That evening, she is forced from her home, and taken to the tower, where she is swept up in the intrigue of a world built on secrets.

From the beginning, I was caught up in Gennifer Albin’s carefully crafted world of Arras, as well as the characters. Adelice is strong, sarcastic, but also vulnerable. Cormac Patton is the smarmy villain you love to hate. The technology of the world verges on magic, which makes it a perfect match for a reader like me who loves both sci-fi and fantasy. The climax, while not entirely unexpected, does have a twist that startled me and made me hate having to wait for the next book. (Now that all three are out, you don’t have to wait!) I’ve read each book in the trilogy as it was released. The way the truths of the world reveal themselves over the course of the series is incredible. (A HUGE surprise in Altered made me squeal with delight!) In short, I highly recommend the entire Crewel World trilogy for any lovers of dystopian fiction.

For more information about the Crewel World, check out Gennifer Albin’s website and the Macmillan page. Happy reading!

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