Why I hate the film adaptation of ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry

I’m just going to say it: I hate the 2014 film adaptation of ‘The Giver’. Good God does it feel so good to say it. Granted I don’t hate it as much as other film adaptations of other media like ‘The Last Airbender’, but I’ve been wanting to say my opinion on this for a while.

Lois Lowry’s bestselling and award-winning novel ‘The Giver’, is a childhood treasure for future fans of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘1984’ (like me). To those who’ve never read the book, it is a powerful novel set in a distant future where sameness is the rule of a Community, meaning no religion, no sex, no violence, no crime, no individuality, no risk, and even the ability to see color is gone. To do this, the Elders of the Community got rid of the Memories of humanity’s past, and giving all of them to an old man called ‘The Giver’. The main character is a young boy simply named Jonas, who is given the chosen job as The Receiver of Memory. To put it in simple terms, he is to take Giver’s place and hold the Memories, from the beauty of sledding down a snowy hill in winter to the cruel ones such as war and famine. This ultimately leads to Jonas learning the powerful message of how important suffering is to individuals and humanity as a whole. Without pain and emotions, we cannot know the true meaning and appreciation of living our lives. This rings true to adults and especially children. This novel, while not a masterpiece of writing, is a great book that introduces readers to a serious level of literature through creative writing and likeable characters.

But I digress from talking about the novel; I’m here to talk about the film made as an excuse to copy the ‘Divergent’ film trilogy. There’s the sensitive teenager that turns into a rebel (check!), an older female villain with white hair that wants to maintain the system for the sake of maintaining the system (check!), backstories that involve telling about the past as opposed to showing it in a visual medium (check!), a romantic love interest not given much screen time amid the plot (check!), and finally, CGI vehicles that look like they should be in a different movie (check!).

However, I will say that for all the things done wrong with ‘The Giver’ film, they did get the style correct, with the film slowly going from monochrome in a few ways to colorful the more memories Jonas receives. Even the rushed scenes like Jonas absorbing the memories is genuine to watch, with footage of loving families together, celebrations between groups of people, and the interactions of people with animals moving you, especially near the final scene of the film.

Second and lastly, I found the casting pretty decent. I like how Jeff Bridges does everything he can to portray a cynical but intelligent grandfatherly figure, an aging man who has all the memories involving humanity’s past. He even acts very well when it comes to the more heartbreaking scenes. Brenton Thwaites as Jonas is decent as the sensitive main character who wants to learn more than he should, and Taylor Swift as the minor role of Rosemary got her two minutes of glory, but what caught me off-guard was seeing Cameron Monaghan as one of Jonas’s friends named Asher. For a guy who’s playing the Joker in ‘Gotham’, I love seeing Monaghan portray a goofy but innocent role.

Okay, now that I got those out of the way, it’s time to talk about why I hate this movie. While decent casting and perfect visual style are important for a novel, it doesn’t excuse lacking effort.

The biggest problem with this movie involves the changes from the classic source material. In the novel, Jonas was portrayed as a naïve and sensitive twelve year-old boy, not a teenager that looks like he walked off the set of ‘I Am Number Four’. I can understand the reasons behind making Jonas and his friends older than their written counterparts, since having teenagers in a film may bring in a young adult audience.

However, the reason behind Jonas and his friends being kids in the novel is because we see them go from childhood to young adulthood. We see Jonas go through the transition of innocence in childhood to the harsh reality when he becomes the Receiver and is given memories involving atrocities committed by humanity. We see Jonas as he slowly realizes how much Sameness in his Community stole from everyone as opposed to what was gained. Jonas also matures as a young boy and breaks his barrier of ignorance to explore the world and what can be gained from the human experience. With what the film did, it’s like making a film of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ with Scout as a fourteen year-old; it destroys the character development.

Speaking of character development, the film feels less like a film adaptation of ‘The Giver’ and more like a summary of the novel with a length of an hour and a half. The film focuses on the backgrounds and setting more than they do with the interactions between characters, and it feels rushed in important scenes and is less subtle.

Last of all, the biggest problem of the entire movie can be summed up in one sentence: There is no villain in ‘The Giver’! The writers of the film thought creating a villain would be beneficial to the plot (and an excuse to get Meryl Streep casted). But in the book this film is based on, there is no bad guy for Jonas to go up against. Much like ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury, Lois Lowry wrote that everyone in the Community chose the idea of Sameness, and didn’t realize the cost of lacking individuality, memories, and emotions. To put a Big Brother-like villain in this novel removes the characters of their complexity and identifiable weaknesses along with their fear of suffering and individual choices, thus whitewashing the message being conveyed to the audience. I know that Meryl Streep is a great actress and is doing her best, but the villain in this makes the antagonist of Divergent look subtle and interesting.

So that’s it. These are the reasons why I have the film adaptation of one of my favorite novels growing up. If they wanted to make the classic read into a film, why improve on it like they did with filming the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy, or make it timeless like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. In the future, I want to see a proper adaptation of this novel, and hopefully bring younger readers to love Loid Lowry’s novel more.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

Review: “The Young Elites” (The Young Elites #1) by the awesome author Marie Lu

Marie Lu is probably what many consider one of those gifted authors that come out of nowhere. She started off working as an employee for Disney Interactive and quit her job to become a young adult novelist, soon becoming a New York Times bestselling author after publishing ‘Legend’, ‘Prodigy’, and ‘Champion’, her first book trilogy. Heck, her books became so well-loved that a movie for the first book is being discussed as we speak. I remember first reading ‘Legend’ back in high school and instantly falling in love with her works, and came to look at her as an inspiration for writing. She’s smart, talented at character development, and a prodigy when it comes to world-building.

However, I wasn’t looking forward to her next book series when she announced it was going to be a fantasy. If you personally know, I consider the fantasy genre the least favorite of genres I know. To me (aside from ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’, ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’), fantasy has become so overdone that it’s become its own cliché. Because of this, I thought ‘The Young Elites’ was gonna be a real bore. Still, since I heard Marie Lu was releasing its sequel this coming October, I had to read it sooner than later. And what’d I think after finishing?

I have to stop doubting my favorite authors.

Over a decade after a blood fever ravaged the island nation of Kenettra, children affected by the plague are left with scars that people across the land believe are omens of bad luck and destruction. Those seen with unusual hair color and markings on the skin are given the name ‘malfetto’, an abomination of the Gods. Not only that, there are some malfettos that are believed to be cursed with paranormal powers at their fingertips (i.e. fire-conjuring, fast healing, talking to animals). They are referred to as the Young Elites, and are wanted by Kenettra’s Inquisition Axis to be executed.

One of the Young Elites is a sixteen year-old girl named Adelina, whose powers of conjuring illusions result in her killing her abusive father. Before she’s burned at the stake though by the Inquisitors, Adelina is rescued by the mysterious Dagger Society, a group of powerful Young Elites led by the fire-conjuring banished prince of the royal family named Enzo. Their mission is to incite a revolution and help Enzo seize the throne from his older scheming sister. If they succeed, the prince can enact laws protecting the mafettos and give their right to exist.

Unfortunately, the Dagger Society’s members are reluctant to have Adelina as one of them, as not only are her abilities powerful, but maybe too powerful for her dark emotions to handle. Not only that, but Adelina herself wonders if the Dagger Society truly rescued her out of kindness, or as a means to an end.

Where do I honestly start?

I should probably talk about the main character, as she’s central to the book and molds this all together. Adelina Amouteru is one of the most well-developed, intimidating, emotional, epically written antiheroes I have ever seen. She is everything we want in a character that walks along the grey line of right and wrong. She has the pity and tragic backstory of Zuko, the naiveté emotional problems of Draco Malfoy, and the twisted yet powerful grasp of vengeful desire Alucard has from ‘Hellsing’. She’s emotional, she’s confused, she’s vengeful, she’s angry, she’s awesome, she’s vulnerable, she’s practically everything you ever want in an antihero. And while some of the things Adelina does are questionable, we know her reasons and why she does it. Hell, there are two dozen moments where we root for her, and we understand how much of a train wreck her life was growing up emotionally and physically scarred. You don’t know whether to be afraid of Adelina, feel sorry for her, hate her, or just hug her.

All the other characters in this are well-written as well. We have Enzo, a banished prince (much like Zuko, but a bit more suave and less serious) that is also friends/in love with a Young Elite named Raffaele who has the ability to sense the energy connecting malfettos and other people. Both are presented as handsome, smart, and really tactile guys that want to create a world where malfettos can walk free unashamed, whether it be achieved through murder or revolution.

Even the so-called villain of this story is likeable and relatable. Teren Santoro is a member of the Inquisition Axis (and a secret lover of the queen), and wants to rid his nation of the depravity malfettos have caused on Kenettra. He despises everything about them, and will stop at nothing until his nation is considered pure by the Gods again. However, he also holds a secret of his own, one that he considers more as a plaguing curse rather than a useful gift.

What I find the most refreshing about ‘The Young Elites’ is the fact that unlike other modern fantasy novels, this one is set in a world you want to live in, but also fear of. This world is filled with dangers around every corner, fathers willing to sell their daughters as mistresses to settle debts, harsh people in a savage world, and a deep prejudice towards people who look different (social commentary much?).

It’s weird how an author as extremely talented as Marie Lu went from writing a futuristic dystopian novel to a fantasy novel that throws your expectations and emotion around you like a rollercoaster. In my opinion, what I’ve talked about makes an epic, especially an epic fantasy. We have a complex antihero with emotions that control her complex powers, fantastic world-building ruled by an unforgiving tyrant, funny and likeable side characters that add to the plot, fantastic visuals written page by page, and amazing commentary of social issues today and in the future.

Marie Lu, I cannot wait for the upcoming sequel to my favorite fantasy series!

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

Review: ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn

I was recommended ‘Dark Places’ a few months back regarding a friend of mine, and barely heard of Gillian Flynn outside of the book. Fans of the author called her novels well-written and very addictive for readers interested in drama. Naturally, I was curious, especially when I learned what ‘Dark Places’ was about. After I got myself the time, I decided to see if the hype for it is well-deserved. And honestly? It didn’t disappoint my expectations.

The year is 1985. The location is a farm outside a small town in Kansas. Libby Day is the youngest daughter in the Day family, a family struggling in poverty and keeping their household together. The father is estranged and drunk, the mother works her butt and sanity off to raise the four kids, and the eldest son named Ben is having darker thoughts he tends to speak more about.

Then, tragedy struck on the early morning of January 3rd, 1985, when Libby’s entire family was murdered by Ben. Satanic symbols were drawn over the walls in their blood, Libby barely escaped, and Ben was tried for manslaughter and given a life sentence. Libby was only seven.

Now, with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the murders coming up, Libby is a thirty-something woman struggling on her own since the fame of her survival died down. That is, until she’s met by a man named Lyle Wirth, a member of a group that calls themselves the ‘Kill Club’. They’re people who make their own inquiries in murders whether they’re solves or unsolved, and are led to believe Ben Day never killed his mother and sisters that night.

Understandably, Libby wants nothing to do with the Kill Club, until Lyle says he can help her with her financial issues. It isn’t long though until the reluctant survivor begins to question what did happen that night, and figure out a mystery that’s haunted her since she was seven.

The strangest thing about this novel going in is that I wasn’t thrilled at first. I found adult Libby annoying at first and found the pacing very slow in the beginning chapter. However, it’s the next chapter that really hooked me in, and made me fully realize how gripping and heart-pounding Gillian Flynn’s novels truly are.

Like I said before, I didn’t find Libby interesting at first. But over the chapters, I grew fond of how cynical she can be, and fell in love with how much the murders have scarred her for life, and know the reasons why she wants to both push the truth away and know at the same time.

Speaking of which, there’s the best part of the novel. I forgot to mention that ‘Dark Places’ switches different points-of-view throughout its pages. One chapter it’ll focus on Libby’s perspective in the present as she’s solving the mystery with Lyle, and the next it’ll switch to Patty and Ben Day’s perspective on the day of the murders, showing all the twists and depth of what led to the Day murders. The reason I bring this up is because so many mystery writers, even popular and well-loved ones like Agatha Christie, focus on how events happen more then why they happen. Don’t get me wrong: it’s important to know the events of what led to a murder, but it’s more important to know the motive and emotional stages behind the killer.

Gillian Flynn’s ‘Dark Places’ is what a great mystery should be defined as. Right next to Libby, my mind was racing a mile a minute on who could’ve committed the murders, and it all led to big reveal after big reveal that kept me at the edge of my seats.

So here’s the big question you’re all wondering: is there anything I don’t like about this book? Well…sort of. ‘Dark Places’ is sometimes advertised as a book for young adults, but there are some very disturbing moments in this book that fit more for college kids, or at the very least late high school. There’s unsettling imagery, heavy references to pedophilia, a scene involving a fifteen year-old having sex (to answer your question, it only lasts half a page), and a substantial amount of blood that can make ‘I Hunt Killers’ blush.

What am I getting at anyway? I’ve read stories with even more disturbing imagery than this anyway. As far as a best-selling novel goes, ‘Dark Places’ is such a dark delight. I loved following Libby and Lyle solve the mystery as well as seeing Ben and Patty’s perspectives on the day of the murders. If you have the time, and a lot of patience, unlock yourself a book that will take you to dark places in your memory.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

Review: ‘Seconds’ by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim fans rejoice as I read a graphic novel* made by the famous cartoonist named Bryan Lee O’Malley. I personally never read his ‘Scott Pilgrim’ series, but after reading one of his newest graphic novels recently, I’m a little curious. The one I’m reading today is a timeless yet modern supernatural graphic read simply known as ‘Seconds’ by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Katie is the owner of a popular restaurant in town named Seconds, and dreams of owning another restaurant after spending four years of her life renting the place. She tries to renovate a run-down spot named Lucknow, but has trouble coming up with the money after so many things start to get in her way, like her boyfriend breaking up with her, contractors paying too much, and realizing both Lucknow and Seconds have house spirits that guard their homes.

After a new waitress at Seconds named Hazel gets badly burned, a guilt-ridden Katie suddenly find a mysterious girl in her room with a mushroom in her hands along with a notebook. The girl reveals herself to be the house spirit of Seconds named Lis, and tells Katie to eat the mushroom, write down a mistake, and wake up to the mistake being erased. She write down that Hazel never got burned, and to her shock, Katie wakes up the next day to see Hazel’s burns gone.

Suddenly, after finding more of the mushrooms under the restaurant’s floorboards, Katie begins eagerly making massive changes to her life, despite Lis’s warning not to tamper too much with her life. Of course Katie ignores her, and soon finds her life and her world spiraling out of control. With the help of the waitress Hazel (who tells Katie of house spirits in the first place) and Lis, it’s up to Katie to make things right.

Main characters are an important piece of writing, and Katie here is probably the highlight of ‘Seconds’. She has everything a memorable character should have. She’s optimistic, sarcastic, a goofball, quirky as a twenty-something woman, and selfish, but never to the point of being an anti-hero. She’s shown to have a good heart, be very determined to construct her new restaurant, and knows when she’s made a mistake that needs to be fixed, even if it may not need to be fixed. In fact, Katie often reminds me of an older version of the protagonist in ‘Coraline’ by Neil Gaiman.

The drawing in this is nothing short of spectacular. The artist’s favorite color in this is obviously red, but the angles and coloring in this gives way to wonderful designs and characters with personalities. The style even allows for good comedic edge without making the characters look like something out of the funnies in a newspaper. A good example would be with the waitress Hazel, who’s considered to be the most beautiful in the restaurant, yet is unbelievably shy and awkward to the point where her reactions always made me grin. Even the design given to Lis is pretty neat, as she comes off as creepy and intriguing at the same time.

It is amazing how much detail and imagination is in ‘Seconds’. Not just the restaurant, but also the book feels like an otherworldly modern place. The climax alone rarely uses words from the narrator, and constructs a visual medium for what the lesson is: we cannot fix everything that is broken, and the past is in the past.

Are there flaws? A few. But they’re more humor-wise where a couple of jokes felt inconsistent or unnecessary. For example, I found it weird how the narrator of ‘Seconds’ sometimes broke the fourth wall with Katie, yet she ignores him/her throughout most of the time until the end. It’s still funny with her reactions, but feels like something from another book.

Also, I’m gonna sound unfair, but I didn’t think Katie’s ex seemed interesting.

Back in the 20th century, graphic novels weren’t considered a form of art yet because of them being seen as childish and innocent. Then came works such as ‘Maus’, ‘Nordguard: Across Thin Ice’, ‘Blacksad’, and even ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’. And much like ‘Seconds’, they came with clever writing, a solid sense of humor, wonderful artwork, good storytelling, and likeable characters. And while ‘Seconds’ has a few basic flaws, and I never read O’Malley’s ‘Scott Pilgrim’ series, I may thanks to the second thoughts ‘Seconds’ gave me.

*To answer your question, yes I will review graphic novels for Reader’s Boulevard, as long as it meets the criteria of being more than 150 pages in length.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

Review: ‘One Man Guy’ by Michael Barakiva

After hearing about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, I thought I’d celebrate with everyone by posting my opinion on a book I read last month, but never got the chance to say my opinions on it. The book I’m talking about is a quirky gay romance novel that caught my attention with the cover and didn’t leave me disappointed. It is called ‘One Man Guy’ by Michael Barakiva.

Alek Khederian is a fourteen year-old Armenian teenager that lives in an Armenian family outside New York City. As his freshman year has come to a close, Alek’s parents want him to go to summer school in order to raise his grades up. Reluctant to give up going to tennis camp and bound by the wishes of his traditional parents, Alek expects the worst of spending three months with the same bullies and the same weird looks from other students.

However, he never expected to become friends with sophomore Ethan, the ‘cool’ kid at his school. Ethan is described by Alek as independent, confident, and very willful in his life. He hangs out with the troublemakers at school, dresses in whatever he wants, and doesn’t care about breaking rules once in a while At first, it seems as though Alek is invisible to him, until Ethan suddenly coaxes him to come with him to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City. From there, everything changes.

After a wonderful day with Ethan, Alek slowly starts to come out of his bubble and hang out more with his new friend, despite the fact that he reveals himself he is gay. Not only that, Alek himself may be starting to fall in love with him.

‘One Man Guy’ is the name of a song made by the actual Rufus Wainwright, and it tells not only about homosexuality, but also pertains to the loner and individual in us all. ‘One Man Guy’ is basically a book about an Armenian teenager discovering he likes boys, and starts to become more independent because of his first boyfriend’s support.

Alek and Ethan are one of the most adorable and well-written characters I’ve seen recently in YA gay literature. Alek is presented as a meek teen that respects his parents and is proud of his heritage, but wants to be accepted among his peers and be involved with what other teenagers do.

Ethan is also a very likeable as a character as well. I expected him to be just an average ‘cool kid’ with no defining personality to him like in other novels, but ‘One Man Guy’ took me by surprise and made an individual out of him. Ethan is portrayed just as Alek said he is, but also has a sense of direction and street smarts to him, which can make Alek the perfect foil for when they first meet. Bottom line, both of them make this book. Still, out of all the side characters, my favorite would have to go to Alek’s best friend named Becky, whom reminds me of a lot of teen girls I remember going to high school. She’s the kind of eccentric girl that is supportive and caring, even if she can be stubborn and selfish at times.

The only characters I have mixed feelings for have to be with the parents. Don’t get me wrong; they’re well-developed with the dynamics with their son. It is obvious Alek loves his parents, and they love him and want what they believe is best for him. However, they often feel less like characters and more like the type of strict parents you’d see on a family sitcom. In fact, Alek’s parents almost remind me of Fran Drescher’s fictional parents on ‘The Nanny’, even though it is weird considering Michael Barakiva is an Israeli/Armenian himself, and he doesn’t take this opportunity to dive more into the Armenian culture than he could’ve.

That doesn’t mean it ruins the novel, far from it. Another fun element of ‘One Man Guy’ has to go to the writing and sense of atmosphere. I love the quiet and calm moments, the moments when Alek comes out of his bubble and opens up more whenever he and Ethan go out on dates. My favorite scene that involved Ethan and Alek is when they visit New York City again, and a couple chapters are solely dedicated to them interacting with residents and shopping for a new look for Alek. There’s no bullying, no awkward moments, or no social commentary. It’s just both of them feeling freely and being themselves.

So what’s my opinion on ‘One Man Guy’? It’s a really good gay romance novel both fitting for gay and straight people. This gives a good depth into a part of the culture wars that still happen today, with Alek’s parents wanting him to keep with tradition, and Alek wanting to be a part of modern America, yet they need to find a common ground in order for him to live a full life on his own. What keeps it from being great are the few stereotypes and lack of explaining Armenian history, but there’s more than enough substance and Armenian cooking culture to pull people into the depths of its pages.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

Review: ‘Afterworlds’ by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld is a genius. Once in a while I come across a novel that cleverly blends two narratives in a unique way; however, Afterworlds has taken this to a whole new level.

Our first character is Darcy Patel, a teenage girl who is excited and terrified that her first novel, coincidentally named Afterworlds, is going to be published. She quits college, and while experiencing apprehension about having her book edited and published, begins dating another writer new to the scene. I won’t tell you who, because, honestly, you won’t expect it.

Then we have our second main character, who is another teenage girl simply named Lizzie. After a near-death experience during a terrorist attack, she realizes she is what others call a “psychopomp” – a spirit guide who also acts as a grim reaper for ghosts. Enter Yamaraj, a Hindu boy who protects souls from rogue reapers and evil spirits.

What do these two narratives have in common? Lizzie is the main character of Darcy’s soon-to-be published novel.

Afterworlds is one young adult novel that all writers should read. It vividly shows the stress and fear involved in the complicated process of having a book or story published.

I also enjoyed the narrative structure. It’s like watching Suzanne Collins as she writes the first Hunger Games book, but both narratives are entertaining enough to keep you interested.

The chemistry between Yamaraj and Lizzie seems somewhat flat, mainly because they don’t see each other very much. However, you can make a constructive argument that Westerfeld wrote it that way to show how much Darcy can improve.

Either way, I never got bored. If Afterworlds sounds intriguing to you, check it out and feel what it’s like to step into the shoes of an author.

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On a side note: I had this review published in the nationwide magazine Teen Ink, which is copyrighted under my alias DomusVocis. Here’s a link to it: http://www.teenink.com/reviews/book_reviews/article/745913/Afterworlds-by-Scott-Westerfeld/

If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

Review: “Sorceress Rising” (Clio Boru series #1) by Evan Michael Martin

‘Sorceress Rising’ is a novel that deserves to be my first reviewed on here, considering it is the most recently published book I’ve read. The author’s name is Evan Michael Martin, and this novel is the first in a series he plans to have published. At first glance, it seems like an average fantasy novel, but the plot, atmosphere, and execution hooked me in for the most part like a prey in wolf claws.

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