Category Archives: Dystopian

The Giver by Lois Lowry – Audiobook

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Lowry, Lois.  The Giver. Listening Library.  2001. ISBN 080726203X

Reader’s Annotation: Each December every twelve-year-old receives their life assignment decided by the Elders.  Jonas is chosen as the next receiver and he slowly learns the painful task that lays ahead of him.

Plot Summary: In this world conformity is the way of life.  Everything is literally in black and white with no one being able to actually perceive colors, people don’t choose their jobs, spouses or even whether or not they can have children.  Jonas knows nothing else and doesn’t truly begin to question their way of life until he is chosen as the next receiver for the community.  This means he holds the memories of hundreds of years of experiences like truly feeling sunshine, the horrors of war or just enjoying a snowy day.  The more memories he gains the more he questions his way of life.

Critical Evaluation

I found the narrator of this audiobook to be excellent and was totally drawn into the story.  It’s hard to imagine a world in which literally everything appears without color.  I know this is the life these people are used to living but it is so hard to imagine living a life in which you don’t really have real choices and life is pretty blah.  Watching or rather hearing Jonas begin to experience things for the first time was amazing and the description of each event was beautifully done.

There are moments that will tear your heart out as you read about babies who are “released” from life because they were born a twin or cry too much and don’t have the proper disposition.  It’s hard to fathom a world that appears so heartless and yet to them it’s a way of life.

I personally thought the ending of the book was a little ambiguous as to what happens but others have disagreed but I definitely suggest teens check this book out.

About the author

Lois was a military brat who lived all over the world.  She was born in Hawaii but also lived in New York, Pennsylvania, Tokyo and Washington DC while growing up.  She published her first book A Summer to Die in 1977.

The Giver was originally a trilogy but a fourth book will be added later in 2012 and is called Son.

Genre

Utopian

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

If your life were to lose color what things and colors would you miss most?

Reading level

Ages 12 and up.

Challenge Issues

The society’s outlook on euthanasia and suicide has lead to this book being one of the most challenged books on the 90s.

I would have the library’s collection management policy on hand and explain that the library is not here to filter what patrons read.  If questioned about this policy I would direct the patron to the ALA Bill of Rights.  This book has also won the Newbery Medal which is prominently noted on the jacket cover.  If asked about this book I would warn there are issues contained within it that a parent may wish to discuss with their child after reading the book.

Why did I include this book?

With all the focus on dystopians recently I wanted to include something from the genre which is more of a classic and that the younger generation of teenagers may not be as familiar with.

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Roth, Veronica.  Divergent. Katherine Tegen Books.  2011. ISBN 0062024027

Reader’s Annotation:  Upon her 16th birthday Beatrice Prior must choose among five factions that will identify her and how she will live the rest of her life.  What little know is Beatrice is a divergent, an anomaly that doesn’t fit neatly into one faction.

Plot Summary: In the future Chicago has been divided into 5 factions, each of which is dedicated towards a particular virtue such as Candor the honest, Abengation the selfless, Dauntless the brave, Amity the peaceful and Erudite the intelligent.  Upon their 16th birthday each teen must choose what faction they will dedicate themselves to.  They are given a test that helps determine which faction they are most likely to belong to but Beatrice finds that she doesn’t fit into just one faction.  She chooses to leave her current faction, Abnegation, to join the Dauntless.  Soon she finds herself in the middle of a conflict amongst the factions that make up this supposedly perfect society.

Critical Evaluation

I’ve heard this book as touted as the next Hunger Games and while the story line is very different it is equally addictive.  Beatrice, who takes on the nickname Tris when she joins Dauntless, was actually an irritating character in the beginning.  She’s weak and pretty heartless especially for someone who grew up in the bosom of the Abnegation faction.  She does grow on you as her character begins to mature and she figures out who she wants to be.  The character that endeared himself to me was her drill sergeant, Four.  He has a heart of gold but he hides it behind his tough exterior.

The world building is wonderfully done and the supporting characters are just as enjoyable as the main characters.  A couple especially refreshing aspects in this book is it doesn’t include the ever popular love triangles that are prevalent in young adult books these days and secondly the romance isn’t the dominant part of the story.

For those looking for a book to feel that hole in their reading heart now that The Hunger Games is complete should check this book out.

About the author

Veronica Roth was just 23 years old when she Divergent was published.  She studied creative writing at Northwestern University.  The sequel to Divergent, Insurgent, came out in 2012 and the last book in the trilogy is due out in 2013.

Genre

Dystopia

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

What faction would you choose?

Reading level

Grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

With The Hunger Games being so popular and many looking for similar reads this seemed like the ideal book to include here.

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Feed by M.T. Anderson (audiobook)

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Anderson, M.T.  Feed. Listening Library. 2002. ISBN 0807217735

Reader’s Annotation: Feeds are an everyday part of life and Titus along with his friends can’t imagine life without it. When Titus meets Violet, a girl who chooses to fight the feed, everything changes for him.

Plot Summary: Titus and his friends decide to spend their spring break on the Moon where he meets Violet.  Violet is different from everyone he’s ever known.  She did not receive her feed implant until much later than most kids and she chooses to fight the feed and it’s attempt to categorize her personalities, needs and wants.  Can Titus and Violet’s relationship survive their differences?

Critical Evaluation

I’ve attempted to read this book several times and finally I had to switch to the audiobook in order to get through it.  One of the bigger barriers was the vocabulary.  I understand in books that are set in the future there is the need to show that language has evolved but the slew of slang thrown in was overwhelming with all the “unit!”, “meg!” or “totally brag” added to the constant “fuck” and other cursing.  Even the slang words that we use today such as “like” was so over used that it grated on my nerves.

Each of the teens fit into some sort of stereotype and honestly none of them came across as very likeable.  Even Violet who was supposed to be the down to Earth, sensible teen was hard to like because she does come across as an intellectual snob.

The world itself is creepy in that the consumerism and the reliance on technology does not seem so far off from our current society.  With the constant funding issues in schools it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in the near future management of schools does go commercial.

About the author

M.T. Anderson is an award winning author for young adults.  Feed won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Boston Globe Horn Book Award.

Anderson has also written picture books and pre-teen books including Handel and Strange Mr. Satie.

Genre

Dystopia

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

How would you like to be online 24/7 and have any information you want at your fingertips?

Would you like it if Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch were in charge of running your school?

Reading level

Grade 9 and up

Challenge Issues

Profanity, mild use of alcohol and substance abuse.

I would have the library’s collection management policy on hand and explain that the library is not here to filter what patrons read.  If questioned about this policy I would direct the patron to the ALA Bill of Rights.  This book has won or been nominated for multiple prestigious awards and I would have a list of the awards and reviews on hand.

Why did I include this book?

With the explosion of interest in dystopian books M.T. Anderson’s book Feed comes up all the time as a major player in the dystopian genre.

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