Tag Archives: dystopia

The Giver graphic novel by P. Craig Russell


by P. Craig Russell, adapted from the book by Lois Lowry
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I’m a bit reluctant to say too much because I’m don’t want to give anything away. This version stays extremely close to the original, which I have read probably about ten times. Since the book is narration heavy, this version is also narration-heavy, especially to start. Once the story really got going, though, is where the medium really shone. Parts of the story involving color and memory transfer worked very well in a visual medium. All that being said, I did not really love the drawings themselves, particularly the style of drawing people. It was interesting to note the artist’s comment in the back matter that he portrayed them not futuristically but rather in a sort of 1950’s throwback style in an attempt to ward off looking out of date.

Original Syn by Beth Kander


by Beth Kander
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Fifty years in the future, after most humans have made themselves immortal by becoming part-machine (“Syns,” short for Synthetic), two teenagers come together to rebel against the inevitability of their situations. Ere, an “Original,” who is fighting for survival in the wilderness of the United States, is one of the youngest and last of his kind and has to deal with very human experiences of loss and change. In direct contrast, Ever, a beautiful and privileged Syn, rejects her family’s choice. The narrative switched back and forth between the two worlds, nicely building tension, and the plot twists kept me turning pages. I loved that this story explored some of the unmentioned repercussions of immortality, like that Ever and her mother are stuck perpetually in a teenager/mother relationship that is only ever bearable because it ends someday. The technological details were great too, like the Syns’ finger ports that both charge them and upload their day’s data, including all memories. When Ever goes into private mode, there are subtle and not-so-subtle readings into that choice that she must take into account. I’m looking forward to the next two installments in the trilogy!

Double Review: Audiobooks I Quit


The Knife of Never Letting Go
by Patrick Ness
Overall: Unrated

Something about the combination of the reader’s voice (Nick Podehl, if you’re interested) and the whiny opening had me hitting the eject button after just a few minutes. The concept is intriguing: a boy escapes from his world where everyone can read minds (“noise”) to one where there is privacy but at a cost. However, the opening scene has the boy interacting with his dog, who can also talk but is very unintelligent, in such a mean way that really ruffled my feathers. It’s possible there was something about the boy’s home life, or maybe just that society in general, that made him be so mean and annoying, but I wasn’t about to stick it out to find out. (I do suspect it was the words and not the voice, so apologies to Mr. Podehl.)


by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Overall: Unrated

This is the second book in The Missing series. The first one, Found, was incredible! But, as I suspected, because the first one was all about solving the mystery, and then it was solved, I did not like the second book. Spoiler alert: the trick was time travel, so in the subsequent books, the kids go back in time to 1453. Could be a good way to learn about different eras of history, and definitely good to have in a librarian’s toolbelt, but I wanted to free up that CD player space for something new.

Onward! So many books, so little time.

Maze Runner series


by James Dashner
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure together tell the dystopian story of Thomas and his new friends. Thomas wakes up one day in an elevator that is depositing him in The Glade with dozens of other teenage boys who are trying to solve the maze that surrounds them. These boys have no memory other than their time in the Glade. Solving the maze, however, leads to more problems as the survivors are taken from this setting back to the real world, in which a deadly airborne disease called the Flare is spreading quickly. Thomas and co. have been told over and over by the government that their participation in trials is all that will save the world, but they need to decide for themselves how much is too much to give.

As with so many trilogies, the second book was the weakest. In addition, it was also the most terrifying to me. I very nearly abandoned this series entirely with descriptions of Cranks (those infected with the Flare, who have gone insane) and the boys’ time in the Scorch (roughly Mexico, with violent windstorms and apprehension for what they face when they reach their destination). But I persevered because I liked Thomas as a character, and was satisfied with the ending. I’m planning to read the prequel, The Kill Zone, at some point too and will post another review about that!


by Lois Lowry
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention up front that I am a huge Lois Lowry fan, and The Giver is in my Top 3 All-Time Favorite Books. So she had me from page 1. I eagerly awaited Son’s completion, publication, and arrival into my hands. I even restrained myself from overriding a fellow patron’s hold and was rewarded when the next copy was for me. Joy!

I inhaled it. I think I had the book for three days and spent every spare second reading, staying up late the last night to finish it, though I tried so very hard to pace myself and read every word. As Lowry mentions in her recent On Point interview with Tom Ashbrook, she had a lot of ground to cover – 14 years – so this book has a lot more action than, say, The Giver. There was one night of reading where the suspense got me so riled up, I had trouble falling asleep.

This is a solid conclusion to the previous three books. We first return to the world of The Giver, and then this new main character goes her own way and meets up with all the other main characters later. Spoiler alert: Evil (having taken human-esque form) is vanquished. After reading Lowry’s blog for many years and going through her partner Martin’s death almost with her, I was touched to see that not only was the book dedicated to him, but there was a character called Martyn. I wouldn’t be surprised if it helped her feel like he was with her while she wrote it.

One part that really stood out to me was a character who hinted so subtly at having been sexually abused as a child. I have no idea how aware Lois Lowry is of this allusion, if it was on purpose or not, but I wonder if there will be any attention paid to it. In my opinion, kids who are reading it and are not aware of such evils will not register it; kids who do know will hopefully be able to identify with this character and see that he was willing and able to love and be loved in spite of it.

I also thought the writing was solid, classic Lois Lowry, very much in tune with the other three books. Son did not blow me away the way The Giver did (maybe because I’m no longer a naive pre-teen?), but it was well-written, suspenseful, and comforting. I am now re-reading The Giver (for the umpteenth time) and STILL seeing new things in it, no doubt enhanced by the parallel story told in Son, and I’m looking forward to hearing Lowry speak in a couple of weeks at one of my favorite local bookstores.

Anna to the Infinite Power

by Mildred Ames
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Fantasy / Sci Fi

Personal Evaluation: This was the favorite book of a friend of mine who is not a big reader. Something about it latched onto his imagination and hooked him. I thought it was good and kind of reminded me of a childhood favorite of mine, The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts. The similarities include the elements of the girl protagonist finding out she is different from her peers because of a science experiment or accident and that there is a small group of other kids just like her. However, this book is a bit creepy because there is a character that strikes Anna as a bit off somehow, but it turns out that she just sees right through Anna and is a better intellectual match for her than her own family.

What might interest children: It’s a page-turner and really makes you think about science, the government, cloning, lying, family relationships, and decisions grownups make.

The Giver

by Lois Lowry
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Category: Newbery

Personal Evaluation: This is one of my all-time favorite books. Every time I re-read it, I see something new. The first time I read it there was the shock of the plot and the ending, and now I enjoy watching the ending unfurl.

What might interest children: Dystopian novels are very popular right now, and this is arguably the original children’s dystopian novel. One of the things that made the biggest impression on me was the absence of color and music in Jonas’ world. It really made me think about why those things might have been removed and other things I took for granted, and I think kids will like the challenge too. I think they will also enjoy recognizing pieces of the world they do know, like comfort objects.


by Neal Shusterman
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

I first heard of this book in my young adult book club (for adults who read young adult books – librarians, teachers, parents – not young adults themselves).  Our fearless leader, public children’s librarian extraordinaire, had just fought the Unwind battle at the local high school – getting it on the summer reading list.  She said she faced much opposition from conservative people who disagree with the book’s message about abortion.

The book takes place after the second world war, which was fought over abortion.  The premise is that in this futuristic society, one’s parents can send their child to be “unwound” anywhere from ages 13 to 18.  Once they have signed the order, it’s final – no changing your mind.  The child is sent to a Harvest Camp where every square inch of them must be used in someone else; naturally, this leads to a society of a lot of elective surgery.  Of course, that’s only if they get you, and so our heroes spend the book running from the “juvie cops” and finally stumble upon a network of safehouses in their fight to stay alive until they’re 18.

In reading books that deal with social issues, I am always interested to see how the author deals with the “what about…” questions that arise.  Shusterman did a good job with the contingencies of people who break the rules and want to get rid of their baby after it’s born, and with different kinds of kids who would be chosen for unwinding.  There was very little suspension of belief, which I always appreciate (and which sometimes bugs me in books for younger kids).  It raises good questions about what happens to our souls when we die, and whether we are more than the sum of our parts.  I doubt any book will knock The Giver off its pedestal as #1 dystopian book, but this one might be a good second.