Now, I admit: I had BIG trouble staying within the selected chapters this week, which is proof of a story well-told, I suppose. Gripping and tense and leading. These are all words I'd use to describe chapters 7-10. (And, ahem, chapters 11-15. *Cough*)
Jade asked us to find the point of no return -- the place that signaled an investment too deep for the main character to withdraw from. Jonas' point of no return is probably at the ceremony, when he became the next receiver of memory. With that knowledge, his life comes to a right angle and moves entirely away from anything he'd ever expected. He is on a completely separate path now, heading into something unknown. Something shadowy. Definitely a turning point in his young life.
But for me, the reader, the turning point was a little bit different. Because I know there's something different about Jonas, I expected his ceremony to be a surprise for him. I expected him to be set apart from the rest. So the ceremony, while engaging from the standpoint of discovering more about the community's jobs as well as Jonas' emotions, wasn't a turning point for me.
It was later, when he came home with his information packet, and read through the cryptic list of instructions. You are exempted from rules governing rudeness. You are not permitted to apply for release. You may lie. These statements made me nervous for Jonas: would this job make him WANT to apply for release? And his world has been so defined by politeness and honesty that to suddenly be allowed rudeness or dishonesty seems like a giant leap out of his circle of comfort.
It was at this point in the story that I was unable to put the book down. From here, questions are answered at almost rapid-fire pace, while at the same time, more questions are opened up. Each resolution is either couched in the tension of not understanding why, or in the need to learn more. There's no down-time, yet nothing feels rushed. Lowry's chapter endings are perfectly timed, and lead to a must-turn-the-page reaction. Her conversations say only what they must, and convey mood as well as action. Jonas trips over his words at times, obviously nervous (which makes me nervous), but still polite, as fits his background.
I'm struck again by the writer's skill in laying the story out so simply. It just is. It seems completely plausible, so much so that -- more than any other dystopic story I've read -- I'm left thinking of the community as a wonderful place to live. There is such peace and happiness, and that list of rules kind of jolts me sideways in my complacency.
From here, I am deeply invested in what happens next with Jonas. I love how Lowry created him to drive the plot forward: he asks questions that lead in different directions than I thought the story would go. He feels emotions that call into question the choices of -- shoot. I think I'm getting ahead of chapter 10. I should stop.
And the beauty of the writer's talent is such that I don't want to stop.