Lois Lowry / P. Craig Russell (Illus.)
176 pages, Fiction
If you never read the novel, I’d start here, with the original novel from 1993. I read it somewhere in middle school? But I can’t recall when exactly. It was one of the few NON-Stephen King novels I read between 6th-8th grade.
I reread Ms. Lowry’s novel a few years ago as a grown up. Yes, there is a YA vibe going on here, but there’s plenty of heavy grown up themes as well: euthanasia, dystopia, suicide, war, sex, who controls society?
So, the graphic novel: the illustration style is okay. The page layouts and framing were pretty repetitive. Most of the graphic novel is in black ink with no color. So, that must’ve been a challenge. True to the novel, there are only a handful of scenes with color. The last sequences where Jonah and Gabriel ride away from the community are the best scenes in the graphic adaption. The wilderness and natural vibrancy are gorgeous. Other stand-out color moments are the war scenes in red and when Jonas notices Fiona’s hair.
Mostly, I’ve been thinking about the novel’s themes about euthanasia and abortion. At first glance the graphic novel is clearly against assisted killing. There are graphic depictions of babies getting lethal injections. Jonas recoils in horror when he finds out what “releasing” people really means. He tries to rescue a baby that is about to be released. Yet, he ends up perishing along side the child on their journey into the unknown wilderness. Jonas’ final days are ones of discovery and joy but also hunger and fear. Ms. Lowry’s story isn’t as easily unpacked as it first seems. How do we balance the right to kill with the right to genuine life or quality of life? How do we decide what to sacrifice in order to have society?
If you loved the original novel, I think you’ll like this adaption. Or share it with a tween in your life.