The Giving Tree vs Atlas Shrugged: YA Author Arin Greenwood on "Save the Enemy"


"Personally, I am a little creeped out by The Giving Tree," explains writer Arin Greenwood, whose latest book, the young adult novel Save the Enemy, features a wonderfully drawn libertarian father with a keen hatred for the beloved children's book. As the novel's teenage girl protagonist explains:

Your dad probably read you books like The Giving Tree when you were a kid. My dad did read me The Giving Tree once, calling it "evil" in that it "promotes the immoral destruction of the self." (I was four.) He preferred Atlas Shrugged, which is basically about how rich people shouldn't pay taxes. He has explained to me a lot over the course of my seventeen years that taxes are "slavery."

"The father is a think-tank-like libertarian," explains Greenwood, who is editor at HuffPost DC, where she covers "weird" stories from the nation's capital. "He's a big Ayn Rand supporter. He doesn't think there should be public transportation. He's very suspicious of public schools." As it happens, Greenwood is married to a think-tank libertarian in real life, which might explain why so much of the dialogue and jokes ring true.

Apart from being funny and poignant, Save the Enemy is a mystery in which Zoey Trask both looks after a brother with Asperger's and tries to find out who murdered her mother and kidnapped her father. All while trying to adjust to a new prep school in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia where the kids are disturbingly nice. Younger readers will dig the drama while older readers will enjoy the satire of D.C. life and politics.

And while Greenwood, a self-described liberaltarian ("the kind everyone hates"), may not hold the same reverence towards Ayn Rand as her protagonist's father, she shares many of his misgivings with the Silverstein classic. "I feel like it promotes some gender roles that maybe I am not so comfortable with. It does seem like a maternal tree that is giving up everything of herself to her child…and the kid seems so unaware of what the tree has given up for him."

Greenwood recently sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to discuss her book, the divide between Ayn Rand and Shel Silverstein, and the challenges of writing libertarian characters.

Approx. 7:45 minutes. Shot by Meredith Bragg and Todd Krainin. Edited by Bragg.