Can we talk about how Lois Lowry’s The Giver is now a movie? (To be released August 15 of this year.)
Yes? Okay, great.
I read The Giver for the first time in middle school. I think I read it in about a day. I couldn’t get enough. It’s intriguing and different and you just can’t imagine a world without color and sleds and compassion. The last time I read The Giver was less than a month ago. It’s on my Book Challenge list for this year and I was excited to read it again (for the fifth time? Sixth?). I still love it and probably appreciate it more now than I did that first time in middle school.
Whether I realized it at the time or not, the world in which The Giver and Jonas live highly influenced my book (which is still very much in progress). I’ve always enjoyed dystopian futures but what really intrigues me about the world Lowry created is that it’s really not that different from our own. Families live in homes, celebrate milestones, share life together. Children ride bikes, go to school, and treasure stuffed animals. Adolescents get jobs. A hierarchy of power exists. People have friends and conversations and challenges (easily solved challenges, but challenges).
It all seems very normal, except for Jonas. Jonas is abnormal. And what’s interesting is that Jonas is abnormal because he’s normal. It’s like Lowry is asking (without asking) what is normal? Is normal being like everyone else? Having it all together? Not allowing yourself to be overcome by emotion or irrational feelings?
Or are those the things that make us normal?
So you think with all of these kind words about the novel that I would be super excited about the movie adaptation. In the past I always have been very excited about movie adaptations of beloved books. Maybe it’s the length of time that’s passed between the release of the book and the release of the movie, or maybe it’s the nostalgia I feel when I read the book that I know couldn’t be replicated in images and soundtracks – whatever it is, I was not excited when I first heard The Giver was going to be a movie. I was nervous and unsure.
Now I’ve seen the trailer and let me tell you, I am more nervous than ever. While I know that nothing that any director could do could ruin what The Giver really is and really has been for me and millions of other readers, I am scared that what they are doing with the story, with the people, with the community will miss the point. Will reach for theatrics instead of subtle glimpses of true humanity.
Just off the top of my head, here are some questions I have about The Giver trailer:
- Why is Jonas so old? He’s supposed to be 11.
- Why is everything in color? That kind of cuts out a huge part of the plot development.
- Why does it look so Sci-Fi and cold and weird? Of course, this complaint is probably more personal than literary, but when I read The Giver I read about regular old bikes and normal kitchen tables. (“Regular” and “normal” here meaning familiar, which again, could just be me projecting my world as a reader into the world of the story.)
- Why, in the stinking trailer, are Jonas and Gabriel lifted up by a weird-o spaceship hovercraft looking thing? That complete gives away/ruins/changes the ending.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore dystopian futures. It’s my favorite genre, but with so many dystopian YA books to movies happening I’m worried that we’re going to burn out. I’m worried that we’re fantasticalizing simple stories in order to get viewers. I’m worried that the simplicity and depth of The Giver will be forgotten in the light of futuristic bikes and full color scenes.
Honestly, I’m also worried that by the time I finish my book, people are going to be sick of reading about teenagers and their dysoptian future problems.
I wonder what Lois Lowry thinks about all this.
(I swear I wrote my post before reading this – 10 Things That are Horrible About the New Trailer for ‘The Giver’, which basically says the same things, but forgets that The Giver’s daughter requested release, which is why there is a young person (Taylor Swift) being released in the trailer. We’re worried, Hollywood!)