Tag Archives: young adult

Why You Should Always Read the Book First

the giver bookWhen I was in elementary and middle school I was the level reader snob that competed in an annual competition called “Battle of the Books.” For thos unfamiliar, BoB as we affectionately called it, was a competition where students had the entire school year to read a list of 20 or so books, or as many of them as they could. Then they would compete in a team against other schools in their district by answering questions that always began with “In which book…” Three points if you could correctly identify which of the 20 books and the author the questioned event came from. Two points if you only got the title correct or answered the question after the first team didn’t give the right answer. The team with the highest cumulative total of points at the end of the day wins. It’s basically a wet dream for library rats who have a penchant for trivia.

Battle of the Books is responsible for me discovering many of my childhood favorite books, some of which are sitting on the book shelf next to me because I couldn’t bear to part with them even during a 3,000 mile move away from my parents’ house. Ella Enchanted, Lily’s Crossing, Trumpet of the Swan all top the list. And then there was The Giver. The Giver is a book by Lois Lowry (Number the Stars) set in the future when humans have created a way to eliminate suffering by basically suppressing all basic human emotion. People are assigned their role in the Community when they are 12 years old and are to accept it without question. When Tobias is assigned to be the Receiver of Memory he learns the truth about human history and how to feel – and it begins to make him question things in the Community. Soon his probing begins to unravel the very fabric of the existence he’s known his entire life.

I was in 4th grade when it was first put on the list. It’s insane now to think about reading that book at 9 years old considering how it grapples with death, sex and that bit at the end (spoiler alert) about forced abortions. I read it again in middle school when my ability to comprehend the underlying messages of the book was a little more advanced. I re-purchased it recently when I heard they were turning it into a film. The trailer for that film premiered today:

And it concerns me. It’s not just a feeling of “Oh god, the movie is never going to live up to the book.” (Please see: The DaVinci Code, most Stephen King novels etc). I know why The Giver was finally produced now despite being around for a couple decades. The time is ripe for dystopian young adult literature. ‘Sup The Hunger Games and Divergent. I see you hanging out over there too, The Maze Runner. The difference is that TGH, Divergent and The Maze Runner work on a broader scope – their worlds are so large they demanded cinematic attention. And, not to put any of them down because they are all great series (Okay, The Maze Runner has some sexism issues but that’s another blog entirely), but their messages are pretty direct. The Hunger Games is separate but equal isn’t equal with a bit of commentary on the inevitable corruption of oligarchies (There could also be another blog on the essential facts that were left out of the first film that dulled Suzanne Collins brilliant writing, but again that’s another blog). Divergent is about finding your identity and the freedom to be more than one thing. The Maze Runner focuses on the importance of working together and finding yourself in the face of adversity.

The Giver’s message is more opaque though. It’s hidden in the memories that Tobias receives from his mentor. The fact that the first half of the film isn’t shot in black and white and then transitions to color as Tobias learns more about the Community’s shared history is a big red flag. That’s a huge part of the novel – that being emotionless may lead to a more colorful life but also a grey one. As Tobias starts to fill in the colors, that’s also how he begins to find the truth. The trailer seems to focus more on the adventure aspect of the book – which is really only the last couple of chapters. Can you really show Eric from True Blood killing babies to a young adult audience and maintain a PG-13 rating? Are you going to be able to do it in a way the depravity of this way of life despite it being founded in the name of human preservation? Despite my high hopes with actors like Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep backing this, the fact there’s an alien like space ship chasing Tobias to close out the trailer doesn’t make me that optimistic anymore. (Did I mention that Taylor Swift is making a cameo in this movie? Yeah, that’s a thing.) It seems to me that film companies were just trying to cash in on the Young Adult angst craze making crazy tons of money at the box office these days at the sake of great literary works of art.

The movie junkie in me is hoping that they do it right. The cautious book nerd is saying don’t take any chances – read the book first.

The Fault in our Stars: One Sick Love Story Shows Us What It Means to be Alive

the fault in our starsIf you’ve been to a Barnes & Noble recently then you’ve probably seen the bright teal cover of John Green’s best selling novel The Fault in Our Stars. I haven’t been a stranger to talking about it on this blog either.

If you aren’t familiar The Fault in our Stars or TFioS as the internet refers to it, is about two teenagers Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters who have both been diagnosed with cancer. They fall in love while attending the same cancer support group. It starts off as any other young adult love story would, but Hazel and Augustus have the oppressive knowledge that they don’t have as much time as their peers. Thus, their love takes on a more epic quality and two seventeen year olds teach us what it means to live every day to its fullest and to love like you won’t have the chance to do it again (because we never really know if we will).

Megan, that sounds ridiculously depressing, why would I want to read that? Because while the potential is there for a ton of cliches and melodrama, John Green strives to tell the truth. The characters in this story are sick but does that mean they don’t deserve the opportunity to love? To be happy? To make the most of their lives even if they are threatened to be shorter than we imagine? The beauty of Gus and Hazel are perfectly aware of their situation but they don’t allow it to make them wallow in the fear or depression that goes along with it. Instead, the give in to each other and go for their dreams, and there is a pretty magical trip to Amsterdam involved that will melt the heart of any cynic. It’s hard to explain the magic specifically without a giant SPOILER ALERT.

Don’t have time to read the book? I actually insist that you make time because it is so worth it. But just incase your schedule is that packed, Fox Studios released the first full-length trailer for the movie adaptation today. The movie stars Shailene Woodley (The Descendents, The Spectacular Now) and Ansel Elgort (Divergent). It arrives in US theaters on June 6 and it is bound to make you cry and laugh and realize what it means to make the most of every day we have. I dare you to make it through the trailer without getting a little bit wispy.

“I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” – John Green, The Fault in our Stars

We all know that when cancer punches you, everything changes. But think about the changes that blindside young adults, whose challenges and concerns differ so drastically from their elders’. “Will I be able to have children?” “I was just starting to figure out my career and now I don’t know if I’ll have one again.” And after treatment’s ended and you want to put it all behind you, “When do I tell the guy I’m dating that I’m a cancer survivor?”

Kairol Rosenthal, a gifted writer who contributed an incisive essay to Help Me Live…, has her own book, Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20’s and 30’s, coming out in a couple of weeks, and I’ll be writing more about in future posts.

But for now I want to share something created by young adult patients and survivors and produced by Planet Cancer, a site for and about young adults with cancer.

It applies to people of all ages when you change the language a bit, and it made me LOL!

Enjoy, and please pass along to your friends and family. It will certainly amuse them – and possibly help spare people with cancer from getting yet another kick in the stomach.

Always hope,
Lori

True stories of what not to say to a young adult with cancer (or else you’ll end up immortalized in print)
from Planet Cancer

“You are cool for a sick person”
“You look really good, for having cancer”
“I know someone who JUST died from that kind of cancer.”
“What a shame. You are so pretty.”
“You have cancer? But I thought your family was like, uber wealthy.”
“Quit bullsh**ing, you don’t sound sick.”
“I wish I could lay around all day. Must be nice.”
“I only talked to you because I thought you were a lesbian because of your short hair. It’s hard not to cheat on my wife when I’m out of town so I try to stay away from straight women.”
“Well, we are all dying. You just happen to know what you are going to die from."
“Cancer is God’s way of controlling the population.”
“Wow. You are living my worst nightmare.”
“You’re handling this so well… if I were you, I would be up late at night and thinking of all these doomsday scenarios.”
“You know what you should do? (insert crazy dangerous sounding diet here).”
“You are so lucky. You’re gonna get really skinny with chemo.”
“Don’t worry. There’s always someone worse off than you are.”

Next, another humorous Top 10 list created by young adult patients and survivors:
Top 10 Worst Responses When Someone Tells You They Have Cancer

Lori Hope is the author of Help Me Live: 20 Things People with Cancer Want You to Know, and a speaker and communications consultant.
This post originally appeared on Lori’s CarePages.com blog, "Hope for Cancer: what helps. what hurts. what heals." For more information about how to support someone with cancer, see or LoriHope.com.

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