June 27, 2012

#CanLitChoices: "The Giver" alternatives

The Giver
by Lois Lowry
Bantam Books
179 pp.
Ages 11-14
RL 5.9

This novel, winner of countless book awards including the Newbery Award, the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and the William Allen White Award, is a favourite novel used in the intermediate grades, usually Grades 7 or 8.  Written at RL 5.9 (this means a child should be able to read this at the ninth month of Grade 5), The Giver is often considered science fiction, although we would most likely consider it dystopian now.

The themes of the book include the following:
  • authority/power
  • community
  • oppression/intolerance
  • responsibility
  • courage

The following youngCanLit focuses on dystopian societies and would serve beautifully as updated and alternative novels to The Giver.  For each, I have looked at the key themes of The Giver in terms of the youngCanLit selection.

All Good Children
by Catherine Austen
Orca Book Publishers
300 pp.
Ages 14+

  • Authority/Power: Chemrose International, which implements the NEST program
  • Community:  New Middleton, owned by Chemrose, is a gated community free of environmental disasters that trouble the shanty towns outside its gates
  • Oppression/Intolerance: genetic status (e.g., ultimate, best-of-three, throwaway), deformed adults (due to chemical contamination), troublemakers
  • Responsibility: to accept mandatory vaccinations, to protect the children and others from harm, Max keeping Ally and Xavier safe after they are vaccinated
  • Courage: to evade the vaccinations, to help those debilitated by the vaccinations, to escape and help others escape

Ashes, Ashes
by Jo Treggiari
Scholastic Press
341 pp.
Ages 12+

  • Authority/Power: Sweepers under the direction of Dr. Lessing and the doctors at Roosevelt Island
  • Community:  the co-operative group of farmers, hunters, and scavengers that live in The Hell Gate
  • Oppression/Intolerance: S'ans (scarred survivors of the plague), the uninfected 
  • Responsibility: to rescue friends captured by the Sweepers
  • Courage: to survive alone in Central Park, to evade the hazard squads of Sweepers, to accept the S'ans, to join The Hell Gate community, to trust Aidan

Blood Red Road
by Moira Young
Doubleday Canada
459 pp.
Ages 14+

    • Authority/Power: the King who rules through his police, the TonTon
    • Community: the palisaded and gated city of Hopetown, the Free Hawks in Darktrees, the former society of Wreckers
    • Oppression/Intolerance: slaves, people high on chaal, cage-fighters, Free Hawks
    • Responsibility: to keep a promise to find Lugh, to keep family together, to protect Emmi
    • Courage: to search for Lugh, to leave the isolation of Silverlake and venture to Hopetown, to endure the cage-fighting, to return to save Jack from the fire, to shorten Epona's death, to go on to the Big Water in the West

      Eye of the Wolf
      by Troon Harrison
      Fitzhenry & Whiteside
      299 pp.
      Ages 14+

        • Authority/Power: the Governing Corporation, Coalition of Southern Alliance Nations
        • Community: different communities of the North and South
        • Oppression/Intolerance: needy Northerners, illegals, refugees, sugar-friends, promise-fathers
        • Responsibility: to find Chandra's kidnapped mother, to keep others in the North safe from a secret plot to infect them with a fatal virus
        • Courage: to rescue her mother, to rescue a wolf pup, to stand up to Hernandez, to cross the border illegally without papers 

          by Beth Goobie
          Orca Book Publishers
          258 pp.
          Ages 12-16

            • Authority/Power: Interior Police who seek control through thought
            • Community: the controlled caste-system of the Interior vs. the anarchic Outback community
            • Oppression/Intolerance: those who have been chipped, those who worship the Goddess Ivanka, Outback community
            • Responsibility: of mothers to their children, Deller wanting to save his brother
            • Courage: to escape to the Outback, to resist the thought police, to become self-sufficient, for self-determination, to endure experimentation, to evade capture

              by Cheryl Rainfield
              Fitzhenry & Whiteside
              316 pp.
              Ages 13+

              • Authority/Power: Government of Normals who use torture and propaganda to oppress the Paranormals
              • Community: of Normals and Paranormals, built on fear of each other
              • Oppression/Intolerance:  Paranormals with a diversity of gifts such as telepathy, telekinesis, etc., Para-lovers, Para-sympatizers, Para-supporters
              • Responsibility: to register if a Para, to help Paras to evade detection, to educate Normals about Paras, to save those who are innocent, to risk their own lives for those they love
              • Courage: to evade detection, to endure torture, to stand up for what is right, to surrender when necessary, to trust in others, to love unconditionally
              A Teacher's Guide (.pdf) for Hunted is available at Cheryl Rainfield's website.

              What Happened to Serenity?
              by PJ Sarah Collins
              Red Deer Press
              222 pp.
              Ages 12-15

              • Authority/Power: Father, leader of the Community, is the only one who can ask questions
              • Community: All members, except Father, are called Sisters and Brothers
              • Oppression/Intolerance:  Those who ask questions are punished, with warnings, humiliation and ultimately less-than-favourable Life Roles
              • Responsibility: Katherine feels the need to determine what has happened to Serenity, her best friend's little sister; Katherine feels that she must help her younger brother to not ask questions to prevent him from disappearing too
              • Courage: Katherine is determined to see what is beyond the Community so that she might find out what happened to Serenity, even though she has been punished for her curiosity

              Leave comments if you have any other suggestions for The Giver alternatives or to select an age-old novel that needs refreshing with #CanLitChoices.


              1. Great choices1 I have only read Ashes Ashes, I need to read more though.

              2. Thank you so much for including HUNTED; that was a delight to see! (beaming)