As both a book lover and a movie fan, I have much to look forward to in 2014 since quite a few book-to-movie adaptations are scheduled for release. While some readers cringe to see their favorite books transformed by a production team, or characters depicted in ways that conflict with their own imaginations, I’ve rarely been disappointed with a film adaptation of a book. I consider seeing a familiar story reimagined by someone else as eye-opening and thought provoking, even if it’s not what I would have expected.
One adaptation I am most anticipating is The Giver by Lois Lowry. This book is the first in a quartet of related books and was published in 1993, before the Young Adult Dystopian genre became all the rage. The Giver won the Newbery Medal in 1994 and continued on to become a frequently challenged book in many school districts.
The story centers on 12-year-old Jonas who has just been designated as the Community’s sole Receiver of Memory. Jonas lives in a seemingly perfect, rigidly structured society. Anger does not exist, nor do feelings of loneliness or pain. Poverty and unemployment are problems of the past. War is so far distant that only the Receiver of Memory knows what it was. Family units are assigned, with each set of parents raising one boy and one girl. The children, however, are not conceived by the parents, but by Birthmothers whose only role is to produce healthy children for the society. As the child matures, emotions and sexual feelings are suppressed with pills. At the age of twelve, each child is given a specific role in the society and is removed from their childhood home.
The reader soon discovers, along with Jonas, that this assurance of safety and harmony has eliminated the possibility of love, color, and freedom. As Jonas discovers the emotions and choices he has been missing, he needs to weigh the benefits of his secure society with the colorful, yet possibly dangerous alternative of emotional depth and freedom of choice.
The other books in Lowry’s quartet are:
Gathering Blue, written in 2000. This is not considered a sequel to The Giver, yet it follows similar themes and takes place in the same future time.
Messenger, written in 2004. This book takes place several years later and ties the previous two books together.
Son, written in 2012. This long awaited conclusion ties all three previous books together in what I consider a very satisfying way.
What is most important in human life? Is it security or is it the power to feel and to make choices? Is it the ability of a person to conform to society’s rigid standards or the opportunity to grow as a unique and colorful individual? Lowry’s books address these questions in an intriguing way. I’m looking forward to August when I’ll get a chance to see The Giver on the big screen. I don’t think I’ll be disappointed!