Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver is set in a dystopian future. Since it’s for the YA crowd, it’s simpler than other staples in the genre. I’ve read criticism to this effect, but it’s not productive. The Giver’s simplicity makes it accessible to a younger audience and its narrow scope keeps it focused.

The novel outlines Jonas’s road to maturity and adulthood at the age of 12 in a warped and futuristic world. Life in his community is tightly regulated, but seemingly happy. Children do not have individual birthdays but attend a collective ceremony for everyone in their year. These ceremonies impart different gifts and responsibilities to each age group that affirm their role in the community. Jonas is forced to recalibrate his relationship with his peers when he is placed under the Giver’s tutelage instead of working in a traditional occupation. As the Receiver, he will encounter history, wisdom, and pain that he would never know otherwise. read more

Review: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth snagged the Pulitzer in 1932, one year after it was published. While the win is well deserved (the novel is impossible to put down), The Good Earth is lacking in places. I’m stating up front that I’m rating it 4.5 (out of 5), because some of this review will sound harsh.

I procrastinated with this review, because I was at a loss to describe how I ever became so invested in such flat characters whose struggles were portrayed via bland language. Perhaps Buck stumbled into a foolproof story that could not be derailed by errors in execution. “Errors” is a strong word. The writing is clear (if repetitive), and the characters are compelling (if cardboard). Note: you do not need a prior understanding of Chinese history (though it couldn’t hurt) as the novel provides ample context to understand differences between urban and rural areas in China. There are no clear dates for the novel’s events, but it’s assumed that the uprising in the South is the 1911 Revolution in Shanghai. read more