The Giver is a dystopian novel set around the life of a young boy, Jonah, and his community. In this community everything is regulated – careers, family size, emotion, even the temperature. At the age 12, when all children are assigned to their life’s work, Jonah is given the job of The Giver. The Giver is the one person entrusted with all the memories of humanity. For decades all other citizens have been denied knowledge of the pain, fear, and joy people experienced before the community was “perfected.” They are given only “the sameness.” The job of The Giver is both beautiful and torturous. It also gives Jonah an understanding that no one else in his community could possibly have – an understanding that makes it impossible to go back to the content, secure life he knew before.
The Giver is not exactly pop fiction. It has been…
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Recently I wrote about how lousy it makes me feel when I read about all the ways other mothers are managing to feed their children absolutely nothing but organic, homemade, raw, freshly sprouted, GMO free, free-range, amazingly delicious, healthy food. Seriously, it’s exhausting. Well, now it’s back-to-school time and I am faced with the same kind of Pinterest-induced guilt.
For starters, there’s the Back-to-School Party.
Seriously? We are not having a party. The week before school starts my children are practically wearing sack cloth and ashes. We distract. We indulge. We don’t celebrate. We are in mourning.
There’s Back-to-School redecorating. Does making them make their beds count? I mean, we spend a small fortune on backpacks, note books, pens, markers, clothes, and Kleenex. Who has extra money to redecorate?
There’s back-to-school menu planning for the…
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Cadence Sinclair is the oldest grandchild in an old-money, east coast family. She spends her childhood summers on the family’s private island with her cousins, Mirren and Johnny and their dear friend Gat. They are The Liars.
The cousins are extremely close and fiercely loyal to each other, despite the efforts of their mothers, the Sinclair sisters, to use their children to win the favor of the family patriarch. Cadence, Johnny, and Mirren’s mothers are each paranoid that the biggest summer home and the bulk of their father’s fortune will be bestowed on another sister. They attempt to pit the cousins against one another, and each Sinclair sister urges her child to make a play for their grandfather’s sympathy and favor. Their Grandfather seems to take some perverse pleasure in his daughters’ greed. He enjoys the rivalry.
Ye even in the midst of all this dysfunction, the Liars spend magical summers, swimming, playing games, and growing up together. But the summer Cadence is 15 she suffers a a terrible accident that leaves her with memory loss and debilitating headaches. While she tries to put together the pieces of what happened, her family seems to be falling apart and her relationships with Gat and with her cousins takes a confusing turn. What Cadence discovers about her accident and that mysterious summer is haunting.
We Were Liars may not be the book for everyone. It is very engrossing – read in one sitting engrossing. But it is disturbing. The end left me a little shaken. That said, a friend of mine who read it predicted the surprise ending (maybe I’m a little dense) and wasn’t blown away like I was. Either way, we both had mixed feelings about the novel. Neither of us could put it down, but in the end, we weren’t sure liked it. We Were Liars paints a rich portrait of childhood summers and takes the reader back to those care-free days. Yet, I couldn’t help feeling that I wanted to see all of the characters redeemed, become better people. That’s what supposed to happen when things go terribly wrong. But in the end, I’m not sure any the Sinclairs are better people – just damaged in a different way and for a more legitimate reason.
We Were Liars illustrates the devastating effects of unbridled greed and selfish ambition. Their mothers’ greed ultimately destroys the family and changes the Liars forever.
Overall, the subject matter might be a bit heavy for middle schoolers. I recommend We Were Liars for grades 9 and up.
Perhaps some mild four letter words.
Cadence and Gat fall in love. They kiss and their is some hinting at additional physical contact, but there is nothing graphic. Mirren’s lies about having “a lot of sexual intercourse” with her boyfriend but in the end admits there is no boyfriend and no sex.
I don’t want to give too much away. The truth of Cadence’s accident is not so much violent as disturbing.
QUOTES FROM THE NOVEL
“One day I looked at Gat, lying in the Clairmont hammock with a book, and he seemed, we’ll, like he was mine. Like my particular person.
“Do not accept an evil you cN change.”
“A part of me died… And it was the best part.”
“Our kiss turns the world to dust. There is only us and nothing else matters.”
“He cried like a man, not like a boy. Not like he was frustrated or hadn’t gotten his way, but like life was bitter. Like his wounds couldn’t be healed.”