Tag Archives: dystopia

Teen Tuesday – The Giver (Guest Post)


While I am by no means a teen, except in spirit, I find I really enjoy well-written teen-lit, and I also love seeing young readers discover wonderful stories.


One of the books I had a love-hate relationship with was The Giver, by Lois Lowry. I was enthralled by the characters and by the description of the world they lived in, but I hated the ending! Did the main character live? Did he die? Was what he saw real, a dream, a death vision?  “YOU CAN’T STOP NOW!” I bellowed at the book.


Until recently, I snubbed the book, wonderful as it was, because I couldn’t bear to have not the least idea of where it was going. Then I came upon Gathering Blue, ©2000, and Messenger, © 2004. I wouldn’t call them sequels exactly, but they are written about other societies occupying the same period of time as in The Giver.

Gathering Blue takes place in a tiny village where there is nothing but selfishness. People who are sick or who have something someone else wants are simply done away with. A young woman born with a twisted leg is deemed useless as she can’t do any work and no one would choose to marry her. She is saved from death when it is discovered she has a tremendous gift for stitching stories with coloured threads. She must learn which plants she can use for the many colours she will need, she must learn the art of dying various threads, and she must sew stories for the all-powerful Guardians. She and Thomas and Matt, two other young and talented villagers, need to band together to fix a very sick society that the elders have ruined.


The “blue” of Gathering Blue refers to the colour blue, which is only available “yonder”.  “Yonder” turns out to be the location of a third village, called Village, the setting of Messenger. Here all the threads (a fitting analogy) are tied together from all three books.


While each tale could stand alone, they fit together like a three-fingered glove.

Am I satisfied with the ending now? Yes and no …, but I am addicted to her writing.


People who enjoy dystopian literature and who want to know how The Giver ended will enjoy these books. They may not answer all your questions!



Adolescent By Nature

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The Maze Runner

I finally got around to reading The Maze Runner, the first of the trilogy by James Dashner.

It slots neatly into the trend of dystopian teen novels, and has been a huge seller, along with Divergent (excellent) and Hunger Games (if you haven’t heard of it, you’re not only living under a rock, you’re living under a really remote, subterranean one).

The book has a teenage boy as a protagonist, who at the beginning of the book wakes up with no memory of his past life, knowing only his name.  He is in a place with other teens, in the middle of a giant, deadly maze.

Dashner does a great job of maintaining the suspense of the mystery, while advancing the plot.  I was a little surprised at how violent the book is – this is definitely for older teens, considering how quickly the body count mounts.    That same body count does a good job of illustrating what it’s like to make decisions when your decisions can get someone else hurt or killed, however, and is not purposeless.

In many ways the book reminds me of Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, which is one of my favorite sci-fi novels (see previous review).    I will be reading the next two novels in the series, plus the recently released prequel, next, so I’ll let you know how they go.

I recommend this for anyone who likes the dystopian genre, although I would say that this is aimed, despite the violence, at a fourteen or fifteen year old, from the style of writing.  If you have a teenager who loved Hunger Games or Divergent, or The Knife of Never Letting Go, this will probably hit the spot.


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The Hunger Games: What’s all the fuss about?

Pretty much anyone not living under a rock, and probably some who are, have heard the phrase “The Hunger Games”  lately.   With the movie about to release, and the merchandise going crazy (check out the display at Chapters if you doubt me), it can be a little tough to tell whether the trilogy is really worth reading, or whether it’s just Hollywood sparkle.   As someone who has actually read The Hunger Games, and, in fact, read it when it originally came out, I think I can give you a review minus the hype.

The Hunger Games was published as a teen book, but I think that it’s a good enough story that adults can enjoy it too.  This is a classic adventure novel, full of action.  There are moral quandaries, questions of ethics, but they are fuel for the drama.  The setting is a classic dystopia, a post-apocalyptic world where all wealth is centred in The Capitol, and everyone else lives in one of twelve districts, where all food and resources for The Capitol come from.  The people in the districts are little more than slaves, and their lives are short and bleak.  The one event that can change that: The Hunger Games.  Teams of two, one male and one female, chosen from each district, compete to the death in an arena full of genetically altered animals and horrific booby traps.  At the end of the games, only one person will stand.    The whole thing is televised, and winning partly depends on capturing the attention of the audience, since audience participation is encouraged, and audience members can send food and medical supplies to favored competitors.

The story follows one of the competitors from district twelve, a girl named Katniss Everdeen, and how her life is changed dramatically when she volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the games.  The victor’s district will receive additional food supplies.  Imagine suddenly being the symbol of everyone’s hopes – especially as a teenager.

I’m not going to get into the description of the other two novels, since that will essentially act as a spoiler for the first one.

I do recommend these books.  The storyline is interesting, and offers some great visuals.  Once the story hooks you, it becomes one of those books that you drag everywhere with you, and don’t go to bed, because you  need to know what’s going to happen!  The other two books are excellent as well.   There are many debates about how the trilogy is ended, not everyone likes it, but that’s not unusual.  No one ever really wants a series they enjoyed to end, and in a story like this one, there are probably a lot of different ways people would have liked to see the story end.

Trust me, buy the trilogy, because odds are you’re not going to stop at one.   And from the number of adults snapping up mockingjay pins, I’m definitely not alone in enjoying the series.  It’s a fun read, is really what it comes down to.  Don’t read it for great literature, or thought provoking philosophy.  Read it for the book equivalent of an Indiana Jones movie, or Star Wars.  It’s a great adventure story, and well worth the purchase.  It is available on e-book, too, which is nice.


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