Review: The Giver

Giver, TheLois Lowry, The Giver

Eleven-year-old Jonas lives with his parents and sister in an idyllic place called simply the Community. The Community is governed by a set of Rules covering all aspects of life, which results in a peaceful, orderly society. Everyone has a specific role to play in the Community, with the Elders evaluating the children on their twelfth birthday in order to determine how they will serve the Community as adults. Jonas is looking forward to his Ceremony of Twelve with great excitement, wondering which job he’ll be assigned to perform. But when the fateful day finally arrives, Jonas is stunned to learn that he’s been chosen for the most prestigious and mysterious job of all: he will be the Community’s new Receiver. At first Jonas doesn’t even know what being the Receiver entails, but he soon learns that it will isolate him from everyone he knows, even his family. And as his training with the former Receiver (now called the Giver) continues, Jonas realizes that the supposedly benevolent Community is hiding some very dark secrets.

Despite the fact that this book came out during my childhood, I somehow never read it before. So I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t enjoy it, reading it for the first time as an adult. Fortunately, my fear was groundless — I thought this was an absolutely fantastic book! Of course, some of the more sinister aspects of the Community will be unsurprising to adult readers, who have presumably encountered other dystopian novels and can guess what’s coming. But Lowry does such an amazing job of peeling back the seemingly perfect facade of the Community bit by bit, slowly revealing surprising tidbits of this allegedly ideal world. I also really loved the character of Jonas, who reacts to his new discoveries in such an understandable way. I practically got chills at the scene where he gets his list of Rules for how to be the Receiver — it perfectly encapsulates the confusing new world he’s been thrust into. Finally, I liked the ambiguity of the ending; Jonas decides to take a stand, but the outcome of this decision remains uncertain. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian novels!

Review: The Westing Game

Ellen Raskin, The Westing Game

At the beginning of this novel, 16 people of all ages and walks of life are invited to live in a fancy new apartment building overlooking Lake Michigan. They all accept due to the luxurious accommodations and affordable rent, but it soon becomes apparent that they have been gathered for a purpose. Old Samuel Westing, who founded the town and employed many of its citizens, has just died. When the apartment dwellers are summoned to the reading of the will under the guise of being his heirs, they are shocked to hear that Mr. Westing has accused one of them of being his murderer. He proposes a game to the 16 heirs: The person who discovers Mr. Westing’s killer will inherit his vast fortune.

This is one of those books that I somehow missed in my childhood, and I decided to pick it up for the read-a-thon since I assumed it would be a fairly effortless read. But while I enjoyed the book a lot, it was definitely more complex than I thought it would be! There are a lot of characters to keep track of, which was hard at first, but they each had such distinctive qualities that I was soon able to tell who was who. The game itself was delightful to puzzle through, and I’ll admit that I didn’t see many of the twists coming! I think this would be a great read for bright children, especially those who love mysteries — but it can definitely be enjoyed by adults as well!