They were only two mute birds sitting on a wall They were only two worlds of Heaven and Hell They were only two trees planted for one another Dreading the breeze The clouds that gazed from above Watched as they stood like revealing lonely mountains Their love is as grey as the weather Dreading the breeze The exhilarating feeling of repossessiveness Frees him every night He can only dream that there is a light That warms them again Dreading the breeze Secret tears When struggles appear The ends fraying As they’re slowly decaying Jealousness radiating off him While she is silently crumbling But they are both Dreading the breeze We all face the struggle The secret tears that threaten to pour out After all They were only two mute birds sitting on an isolated wall.
The Giver is yet another youthful dystopian story, joining The Hunger Games and Divergent on the ever-growing list. It serves as a metaphor for adolescence – a coming-of-age story where the protagonist learns the truths of the world that cause his innocence and naivety to fade, while adult figures of authority attempt to quash his feelings of rebellion and draw him back to conformity. And it is exactly as it sounds: an extremely similar plot template to every dystopia film ever, which everyone has seen too many times.
However, this is not the fault of the plot. The Giver is based on a novel of the same name, written by Lois Lowry in 1993, which was a trailblazer in dystopian fiction (predating Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth). Therefore, the problem with the film: it was made too late. Timing is everything – and time was not on the side of The Giver. Instead of the innovative story it was obviously meant to be, it seemed more like a replica of the others.
The film follows Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a boy living in a seemingly perfect world, who, upon graduation, is apprenticed to the Giver (Jeff Bridges). Here, Jonas will be taught how terrible the world used to be (including the ‘good’ parts, like love), before the erasure that lead to their current society. The more he learns, the more he realises how mindlessly conditioned the people around him are, and the more he wants to act, to the horror of the elders.
The theme of ‘giving’ is one that weighs heavily on the main characters. The knowledge gained by Jonas from the Giver is not one for the faint hearted – seen when the previous apprentice is unable to cope with the pressure of knowing the past. Though giving is depicted as rather negative, there are also positive connotations of giving the truth: the less time the truth is withheld, the better the reaction.
With a strong supporting cast, including Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, and Katie Holmes (with a cameo from Taylor Swift), the performance and production are solidly good, but the quality is no longer the point, due to the fact that the dystopia has missed its window, as the sub-genre is well along the way to having run its course.
Berlin, 1940. The city is paralysed by fear. But one man refuses to be scared.
Otto Quangel, an ordinary German living in a shabby apartment block, tries to stay out of trouble under the Nazi rule. But when he discovers his only son has been killed fighting on the front he’s shocked into an extraordinary act of resistance and starts to drop anonymous postcards attacking Hitler across the city. If caught, he will be executed.
The story tells of Otto and Elise’s care and calculation as the cards are methodically dropped throughout Berlin. It also reminds you of the anguish they feel for their son and the fear of being discovered by the Gestapo. The people around them that are also affected, tell their parts of the story and their own deprivation in Hitler’s Berlin.
Soon this silent campaign comes to the attention of ambitious Gestapo (the Nazi police force) Inspector Escherich and a murderous game of cat-and-mouse ensues. Whoever loses, pays with their life.
Alone In Berlin is a Modern Penguin Classic. The story itself is based on the true story of Otto and his wife, Elise Hampel who left postcards around Berlin that condemned Hitler.
It is an unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin. Told through a multiple narrative it shows the hardship the Nazi rule brought to Berlin and how the common people counteracted the gloom. The book is said by many, and I agree, to be one of the most extraordinary and compelling novels written about World War II.
Hans Fallada, whose real name is Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen, was a German writer in the first half of the 20th Century. He is known for novels such as Little Man, What Now? and Every Man Dies Alone.
I would recommend this book to anyone over the age of 14. It is a book that is driven by suspense and will grip you until the very end. Happy Reading!
“What do you think will happen to our cards?” asks Anna.
“People will feel alarmed when they see them lying there and only read the first few words. Everyone’s frightened nowadays.”
“That’s true,” she says, “Everybody is…”
By Florence G
12:07. There’s a monster at Conor’s window, it’s not the one from his nightmare but it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
A Monster Calls follows the life of Conor O’Malley; a boy torn between home life, school life and his horrific grandmother. His mother’s diagnosis with cancer has left him with an internal battle that he doesn’t EVER want to confront. But as his mother’s health declines, Conor finds himself drifting away from everyone around him and his constant nightmares get worse.
And that is when the monster comes, in the form of a huge yew tree. The monster tells Conor three stories from the past and in return he wants Conor to tell him a fourth story. He wants Conor to tell him the truth, Conor’s truth.
A Monster Calls is a heart-wrenching story that left me and many others in tears. Although it is at times a dark, mournful book, it also has some hilarious and jaw dropping moments.
It was first published in 2011 by the author Patrick Ness (known, as well as many others, for his series ‘Chaos Walking’). The plot itself was passed on to Patrick by the renowned author Siobhan Dowd (author of books such as ‘The London Eye Mystery’) after she sadly passed away from breast cancer. Patrick Ness has taken on the story and created an outstanding novel that shines with compassion and understanding.
What links this book to ‘Giving’?
Well, the monster gives Conor everything he could wish for; hope, love, freedom and mixed in with all of that, the ability to face the truth and move on. The monster gives Conor his freedom back.
A Monster Calls is also a film, which came out in late 2016. It features Academy Award Nominees Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones as well as Liam Neeson as the voice of the monster. Conor is played by a relative newcomer called Lewis Macdougall, who does a fabulous job. The film left me full of hope and sadness leaving with a tear stained face!
I hope that you pick up this book. It is a thoroughly thrilling and powerful read. Although it is suitable for readers in year 5, I recommend this book to anyone, of any age.
When she was born she was given the softest of teddy bears (a present from an aunt), which she clutched in little fists and wouldn’t let go of no matter how hard people tried. The name her parents had given it was the first word she ever spoke in her squeaking voice and when she was scared it was that item she’d find, the item she’d hold as if she were again a baby.
Four years old, she got her school uniform from her grandparents, a little red pinafore which she wore around the house for the whole summer before she actually got to join the reception class at the other end of the village. It didn’t totally fit, and the plaid pattern clashed with the turtles on her socks, but she wore it anyway, beaming when she finally went to school with her hair tied up smartly in little pigtails.
At age seven she received a book which became like an extension of her hand. It was a compilation of her favourite fairy tales, golden lettering decorating the outside with beautiful illustrations, which she lugged with her everywhere. On long car journeys, all the way to school and back and even next to her chair at dinner, just in case she needed to check which princess had done what. (She never did have to check. She knew it off by heart.)
Ten brought a notebook into which she spilled her soul, every emotion she ever felt, the contents of which were read out loud by her older brother whilst she tried desperately to grab it back. Pages and pages that she then ripped out and stored at the bottom of a trunk, hoping that they’d never see the light of day again.
When she was twelve, she gave her mother a heartfelt poem written in shaky handwriting which then sat in pride of place for the rest of her life framed in the kitchen, so that it could be shown to every friend that came round. She blushed every time, told her mother she was embarrassing her, but she secretly loved it. She was especially proud of the small drawing in the corner.
Aged fourteen, for Christmas, a collection of DVDs that she spent the whole holiday watching, tucked up with her brother on the sofa. He perfected his signature hot chocolate which she used to beg him to make for her, she learned exactly when to pass him tissues when watching his favourite films.
The year of her sixteenth, she got a beautiful silver locket and gave her brother a hand-knitted jumper to take with him to university. In the locket she put a picture of her best friends, wore it around her neck always, and smiled when she got a photograph from her brother of him shivering in his dorm room, the jumper pulled up to his nose. When the chain snapped, caught on a zip as she pulled off a shirt at the end of a long day, she cried and kept the locket safely in her bedside cabinet until her father went with her to buy a new one.
The car that she and her parents bought together when she was eighteen was her pride and joy, bright yellow and tiny, a means of freedom that she’d never felt before. It moved with her to university some months later, changing from trips to the cinema to trips home, filled haphazardly with cushions and books. She’d never forget the jolting sensation the first time she crashed it, bumping over a pothole and into a hedge by the side of a winding country road. (Her brother never let her forget it either; He never crashed his car.)
At twenty she cried her heart out to a friend, bemoaning both her stupidness and her boyfriend’s, as she sipped from a chipped mug given to her for Christmas by her best friend some years before. The mug had been damaged when the boyfriend had done the breaking up, dropped on the counter in shock, but was still perfectly functional for holding the best cup of tea ever.
The keys she was given to her first flat at twenty-two fit perfectly in her hands, and never left her pocket, the comforting click of the lock making her feel safe in the space that was filled with her, her books and her films and her photos. Filled with notebooks bursting with stories and drawers stuffed with pens.
When she was twenty-four she gave her newborn niece the softest of teddy bears.