Tag Archives: euthanasia

Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry cover shows the face of an older, bearded man in top right and a young man in profile on the bottom left. Bare branches of trees extend toward the center from the left side.

The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1)
Lois Lowry
Clarion Books
Published April 26, 1993

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Giver

In Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal–winning classic, twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community.

Life in the community where Jonas lives is idyllic. Designated birthmothers produce newchildren, who are assigned to appropriate family units. Citizens are assigned their partners and their jobs. No one thinks to ask questions. Everyone obeys. Everyone is the same. Except Jonas.

Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Gradually Jonas learns that power lies in feelings. But when his own power is put to the test—when he must try to save someone he loves—he may not be ready. Is it too soon? Or too late?

Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.

The Giver has become one of the most influential novels of our time. Don’t miss the powerful companion novels in Lois Lowry’s Giver Quartet: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

My Review

I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve read this book, but definitely the first since I’ve been blogging. I would like to read and review all four books in the quartet. The second book, GATHERING BLUE, is one I’ve read before, but I haven’t read the other two.

One of the things that stood out to me this time reading the book is the way that Jonas’s role in the pivotal moment in the book is to ride his bike for scene after scene. Whereas back at home, the community members are reeling from the presence of Jonas’s memories, and the Giver is busy helping them process the new feelings.

Reading the book again as an adult, I find it an interesting choice that we follow Jonas out of the community and don’t witness the other community members experiencing those memories. Jonas really wanted his family and Fiona to experience the emotions and memories he experienced.

I love the book, though. Jonas journeys from passively following instructions and believing that the rules of the community are all for the best. As he learns about pain and loneliness (both from the Giver’s memories and his new role which mandates that he not speak about his training to anyone) he begins to question the way the community operates. He begins to wonder if the “sameness” which forbids anyone experiencing color, emotions, or individuality actually robs the community of something precious and valuable.

It’s an important idea, especially in the current conversations about book banning and restrictions on conversations about identity. Is there a point at which we harm ourselves by so completely sanitizing books and conversations? Do we diminish or lose the ability to empathize with others or process the existence of pain in the world this way?

Anyway. All that to say that I’m glad I reread THE GIVER. It’s been thirty years since the book was first published, and it still clearly has some important things to say.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Jonas and the Giver both have light eyes. That appears to be a marker for the ability to receive memories. No other race details given.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Jonas feels attraction toward his friend Fiona.

Spiritual Content
The community celebrate the life of members when they reach a certain age, before a “ceremony of release” in which a community worker euthanizes the member with an injection.

Violent Content
Jonas watches a ceremony of release in which an adult injects and euthanizes a small child. Jonas experiences memories of war in which a soldier on a battlefield dies, crying out for water. He also experiences starvation and grief in memories.

Drug Content
Community leaders instruct Jonas to take a daily medication to stop any feelings of attraction/arousal.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.

Review: Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

Life in a Fishbowl
Len Vlahos
Bloomsbury Books
Available January 3, 2017

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Fifteen-year-old Jackie Stone’s whole life turns upside down when she discovers not only that her father has a terminal brain tumor, but that he’s decided to auction his life for sale on ebay. As a reality show executive takes control of her family’s lives, Jackie’s whole life begins to come apart. She finds allies in an online community and the courage to fight for her privacy and her family’s dignity. Together they fight to get the cameras out of the house and win her family’s lives back.

Life in a Fishbowl is totally different than Vlahos’s earlier novels. The story follows the experiences of many characters, most of them adults, which kind of breaks tradition in young adult literature. I think what keeps it grounded in the genre is the tone which the story takes. Not many authors can successfully craft a story like this and have it still feel like young adult fiction, but Vlahos does here.

One of the more surprising elements to me was the fact that the brain tumor was an anthropomorphized character as well. At some moments, I struggled with this—it definitely requires a lot of willingness to suspend disbelief. At other moments, it felt like a natural turn in the story. I loved Jackie’s character, but my real favorites were Hazel, an online gaming girl, and Max, Jackie’s friend from Russia. Both really hit that note for me of the shy kids who have so much more going on under the surface. Jackie also had that vibe, too, and the story shows each of them blossoming in the midst of adversity.

The story deals with whether someone has the right to euthanasia. Mostly we see the issue from the side of Jared, who himself wants to have the right to end his life—to have a death with dignity, he says. Members of the Catholic Church oppose him, but there’s not a deep exploration of their position on the issue, and the nun who protests the loudest has her own ulterior motives which only twist further the more deeply she becomes involved in the situation.

The way this plays out was very different from the sort of romanticized version of events in The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone, in which terminally ill cruise passengers opt for assisted suicide sometimes earlier in their illnesses.

The issue that truly dominates Life in a Fishbowl is less the issue of euthanasia and more the issue of reality television and the invasion of privacy that other members of Jared’s family suffer once he has signed a contract with the studio. Events get edited and clipped into scenes that look vastly different to the public than the reality Jackie and her family face. Ratings, not reality, govern the show, and cameras lurk in every room, recording everything. Eventually Jackie finds ways to fight fire with fire, releasing her own video clips that show the truth happening inside her home.

Recommended for Ages 16 up.

Cultural Elements
Jackie and her family live in Portland, Oregon and appear to be an average, white middle-class family. She befriends a young Russian boy online as part of a school project.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used with moderate frequency.

Romance/Sexual Content
Jackie and her sister discover their parents in the act of making love. They quietly back away and close the door.

Some brief references to a sexual relationship between an executive and his assistant. No descriptions of their intimate activities.

Jared remembers his first kiss ever and his first kiss with his wife.

Hidden TV cameras record in bathrooms in Jackie’s house. It’s mentioned in passing that unbeknownst to her family, male members of the crew watch the girls shower. Jackie is fifteen and her sister Megan younger.

Spiritual Content
A nun bids for Jared Stone’s life on ebay. She considers it a sacred duty to preserve his life, but her motives get swallowed by other, less pious reasons. Her superior also takes the stance that Jared should not be allowed to end his life. When the Catholic hospital becomes responsible for Jared’s medical care, the goal is to keep him alive as long as possible, which conflicts with his own desire to end his life.

Violent Content – see spoiler section
A woman slaps a teenage girl. She retaliates by punching the woman.

A TV executive manipulates Jackie and her family (and others) for his own gain. His behavior isn’t violent, but it’s pretty disturbing at times.

Drug Content
Brief references to drug use in a character’s past.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

SPOILERS – Violent Content Continued
A man stabs a dog to death with a knife.

A woman smothers a man in a coma with a pillow. Before he slipped into a coma, he asked her to assist him in ending his life.