As I read Ally Condie's new dystopian tale corresponding , I couldn't help but draw comparisons to the first dystopian ya novel i read, the giver by lois lowry . Both books are coming of age stories of teens, who with the push of an older mentor, begin to see that the "perfect" worlds in which they live are anything but. Though Lowry's Jonas is a younger male protagonist, corresponding 's seventeen-year-old Cassia Reyes follows much the same progression of doubting, questioning, and finally rebelling against those in charge.
Condie's style, like Lowry's, is often rich with description, enough to make adult readers sigh with pleasure, but not too much to deter its young adult audience from enjoying the emotional journey of the main character. And that journey is what drives the plot. Though I read corresponding in a marathon reading session, I wouldn't say its pace is particularly fast. Neither was that of The Giver . What keeps the reader turning pages in these books is the emotional, intellectual, and philosophical growth of the main character. That may not sound nearly as exciting as saying these books are about hormonal teens lashing out against an oppressive society, but, at least as far as book one in each of these series goes, it's the truth. Both books are far more focused on the character's decision of whether or not to rebel, whether it's right to rebel, than on the actual rebellion, which in both books takes place only at the very end. Yet Condie and Lowry both manage to make that decision-making gripping enough to propel readers to the final chapters (and beyond, since both books belong to series).
The biggest difference between these two stories is the love-triangle plot of corresponding . Condie might have used this popular romance plot of recent YA books to drawn in fans of the Hunger Games and Twilight , but the twist she puts on it is unique and it doesn't come off at all as just a ploy to suck in teenage girls . The romance isn't an aside from the dystopian society plot; it drives Cassia's awakening and ultimate rebellion. Though I still feel teenage boys might be turned off by the amount of brooding Cassia does over her emotions for the two boys, the fact those emotions are so entwined with her decision to break free might just save this book from being classified by the guys as chick lit.
What makes the teacher in me drool over corresponding is its theme and the opportunity for serious discussion about timeless topics within a tale teens want to read. Anytime YA readers are choosing books with such clear and important themes, that's a win for teachers, parents, and kids. And if a new series, like corresponding or the Hunger Games can be connected to books that have become staples of middle and high school classrooms, like the Giver or 1984 , than these young readers (and their teachers) can forge deeper understandings of great books both old and new.
Bottom line: Read them both. Though I liked corresponding enough to want to read the rest of the series, I think to truly appreciate it, readers ought to start with its predecessor, The Giver .