As part of my reading challenge, I had to read a book I should have read in high school. Initially I had no idea what I’d read to fulfill this requirement, and then a friend of mine asked if I’d read The Giver.
Apparently, she read it in high school and was surprised that many people she’d asked had not – since she read it in school she assumed others had as well. I had not, and she proceeded to give rave reviews about how interesting a read it is. Not only that, but the three sequels were also worth reading, if I was interested. I quickly made a note for myself that The Giver would be my “from high school” selection.
To say I was disappointed is slightly misleading. It’s not a bad book, but it’s not nearly as interesting as I’d hoped. It honestly made me wonder at the simplicity of books offered to high school students. This book is simple, which I wasn’t expecting given its dystopian themes. The writing itself is straightforward and effortless and the font quite large so that when I sat down to start reading one lunch break, I managed to read half of the book in less than an hour. If this book was meant for high school students, it’s setting the bar rather low. Though this would have been a welcome break from Shakespeare I suppose.
I was mostly disappointed because the dystopian themes, while interesting, seemed to barely scratch the surface. Throughout the read, I could see endless potential for digging deeper – is there significance in the fact that the first colour Jonas recognizes is red? Why were the different colours of eyes mentioned if folks in that community can’t see colour? How big is this community, exactly? Where were the other communities located and why do they seem to be so different? How old is the Giver, anyways? So many questions left not only unanswered but entirely unexplored. And this surprised me mostly because of the forward.
The copy I bought showcases a medal on the front for a “distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” and also contains a forward by the author, Lois Lowry. In it, she recounts receiving innumerable letters about this book from all over the world. Some readers commented that the book changed their lives, while others condemned her for writing such a disturbing book. Obviously this “simple” book has touched many lives, and yet I fail see what all the fuss is about.
As far as dystopian fiction from high school goes, I remember thinking Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was quite a good book. But perhaps it would read much different now that I’m an adult, and maybe that’s the point. Simplicity, perhaps, may actually be the key to getting these rather large and complicated messages across to folks at an age when so many other avenues of learning simultaneously demand their attention. I am well beyond high school age, though, so I am probably not the intended audience for this book.
So instead of faulting the book for its simplicity, I’ll just be thankful that it was such an easy read and move on. And just to be safe, I think I’ll stay away from any other books “I should have read in high school” from now on.