Monday, February 18, 2013

Dystopic Children

A few months back I checked in a book by Lois Lowry called Son. I was pleased to see her name on the cover as she was one of my favorite writers as an adolescent. I read Number the Stars for class, and I read The Giver twice, once for fun and again for a summer writing camp after eighth grade. I think this was my first introduction to wonderful world of dystopias. (The classic Brave New World has since become one of my favorite books.) 

Reading the back of this new book, Son, I noticed something strange. This book claimed to be the final sequel to the Giver series. Series? What? Turns out that seven years after the publication of The Giver, Ms. Lowry published a sequel called Gathering Blue. Since I was entering college at the time and reading very few books targeted at adolescents, this book completely swept past me. In 2004, another sequel came out entitled Messenger, and then Son followed this past October, falling right into my hands, hot off the presses.

I immediately wanted to read them, but I wasn't sure I could remember The Giver in enough detail to follow the sequels as I didn't know how much detail would be in them. I decided to get the audiobook of The Giver out of the library to refresh my memory. (I am truly enjoying my audiobook experiences in my car. I'm getting through so many books now!) I finished it in a matter of days and I was reminded how much I had loved Lois Lowry as a child and The Giver in particular. I've sold it many times at the bookstore since we got it back into stock along with its sequel to complete the quartet. (It wouldn't do to have someone pick up Son, realize it's the fourth in a series and be unable to buy the previous three books now would it?) I know it's under some debate, but to me, it's obvious that this book is an enduring classic. Why else would it sell so well, even today, twenty years after it was originally published?

After finishing The Giver, I requested both Gathering Blue and Messenger on audiobook from the library. They were at different branches and had to be sent over, which takes a few days, so I looked around for something else to listen to while I waited. My attention fell onto another dystopian novel aimed at young adults that I'd been meaning to read, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 

I'm only on disc 3 our of 9, but I can already attest that The Hunger Games is pretty grim and, at times, downright morbid. I don't mean to say these qualities make it a bad book. I am just surprised that with how overprotective adults are these days that a book like this, so graphic and unfiltered, would be allowed to slip into the hands of children. 

I suppose there are two reasons for this. 1) Because parents are notoriously ignorant of their children's behavior and interests. No, seriously. My mother told me she didn't want me reading Interview With the Vampire four years after I'd not only read it, but three of its sequels as well. 2) Because that is where they are meant to be. Who better to benefit from the harsh warnings of dystopian novels than children, the builders and keepers of society's future? I was never as enthralled by what the future might hold than when mine was so uncertain. 

The future is still uncertain for me at thirty (for all of us, really), but nobody cares what I want to be when I grow up anymore. I'm only asked about college when people mistake me for a student. (I am routinely told that I look young enough to be one, though it's been nearly 8 years since I was granted my BA.) The future is now, I suppose. But that isn't how it is with kids. They have so much ahead of them, and it's inconceivable and seems so far off, yet so close at the same time. 

And the future is probably going to be a little dystopic, in all honesty, but maybe we'll luck out and it won't be as numbing as in The Giver or as callous as The Hunger Games. I'm not getting too hopeful, though. I do read the news. I also look forward to finishing the rest of the Giver quartet and the Hunger Games series. Oh right, and the movies. Gotta see the movies. Yeesh! My future is overflowing with media demands.

For your listening pleasure, The Future Soon by Jonathan Coulton:

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