Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review: The Giver

Author-  Lois Lowry
Bantam Doubleday Audio

 "They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on.  And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them."

I have to admit, when I was searching for a new audiobook and came across The Giver, it seemed like the perfect choice.  I hadn't read the book since high school and thought it would make a great addition to my newly created YA blog.    The problem do I begin to review a Newberry Medal winner that has been analyzed, criticized and reviewed by the most elite of industry professionals? The answer is...I'm not.   Instead of a review, I'm calling this an appreciation of work.   Books speak to each of us in different ways, especially pieces of work like The Giver-  this is my interpretation, my truth.

From the cover: 

Jonas's world is perfect.  Everything is under control.  There is no war or fear or pain.  There are no choices.  Every person is assigned a role in the Community.
When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver.  The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life.  Now it's time for Jonas to receive the truth.  There is no turning back.
Without a doubt, The Giver is one of the most thought provoking novels I've ever read (or heard in this case).  The novel is set in a seemingly perfect community in a futuristic society.   Everyone looks similar in appearance and dress, there is little crime, and being different is considered shameful.  Farfetched you say? not really.   For me, this world where individualism is discouraged is a very real place-  I saw it everyday growing up in southern Alabama and was able to visualize it perfectly.   In this world where no one makes choices, there are no consequences for making wrong decisions.  There is also no happiness when the right choice is made.   I'm sure we've all heard the saying "you've got to take the bad with the good".   While there are several messages and lessons we can learn from The Giver, this is the one that spoke the loudest to me.   The only way we can experience love and joy is to understand loneliness and pain.   There was one period for which I refer to as the most difficult in all my life-  if you ask if I would change it, I would say "not in a million years".  Why?  because like Jonas (the protagonist) I am better for it and wiser.   The Giver is one of my favorites, and if you haven't read it in 12 or so years like me, I recommend the audiobook version.   The storytelling is perfect.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Do You Know the Monkey Man?

Author:  Dori Hillstead Butler
Peachtree Publishers 

Throughout my various publishing internships, I managed to collect quite a number of books. Some were received as payment for my services, others I found particularly intriguing and actually purchased, and a few I selected strictly based on a striking jacket. Two summers ago, I interned with an independent children’s publisher in Atlanta called Peachtree. It was here I came across Do You Know the Monkey Man?. The title immediately caught my eye and I knew it would make a fine addition to my collection.

I DO have a confession to make…I acquire books at a rate faster than I can actually read them. I have wonderful intentions, but many find their way on my bookshelves only to move farther and farther down my “to read” list. Falling behind the new paranormal teen romance, crime thriller, and even trashy beach read (aka Playground) “Do You Know the Monkey Man” waited patiently on my shelf until this past week. Little did I know, I had a quiet gem all along…

Thirteen year old Sam Wright wants answers and she is going to do anything to find them. She lost her twin sister Sarah when she was three years old in a horrible canoeing accident, and her father mysteriously disappeared shortly thereafter. Sam’s mother is now getting remarried and she must deal with idea of having a new Stepfather. In addition, Sam has been having strange dreams about her dead twin and an eerie feeling that she is somehow still alive. “Do You Know the Monkey Man” takes readers on Sam’s physical and emotional journey of finding her biological father and discovering the truth about her family’s past.

I needed an additional cup of coffee this morning because after getting halfway through the book last night, I quickly realized I would not be able to put it down until I was finished. It was fast paced and suspenseful and my interest forced me to each following chapter. The author, Dori Hillstead Butler, does a wonderful job of relaying the complex emotions of an early teen who is trying to find her place in a broken family.

Teens and adults alike can learn a valuable lesson from this book. We live in a world where we are constantly in search of the unknown, the better, the “greener grass” of life. While at times we do find what we are looking for, sometimes along the way we learn to appreciate the life we have and the people who are in it. The message of the story is a beautiful one: there is no single definition of family. Family is a feeling, an emotion. It is comfort, dependability and trust. Family is love.

The sequel is entitled Yes, I Know the Monkey Man and I assure you, this one won’t sit on the shelf.