Series: The Giver #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin on August 1, 1994
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In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community's Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.
The Giver is set in a future society which is at first presented as a utopia and gradually appears more and more dystopic, so could therefore be considered anti-utopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. Jonas' society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to "Sameness", a plan which has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of "Receiver of Memory," the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. As Jonas receives the memories from his predecessor—the "Giver"—he discovers how shallow his community's life has become.
The Giver has been on my shelf for years! I’ve always been interested in it but never enough to actually read it. As required reading for my YA lit class this semester I was finally forced to give it a try and I can see why everyone raves about it.
The Giver is a slower read with not much action. However, it’s not a slow-paced read. In fact, it’s actually pretty fast-paced. I had a limited time frame to read it in but I honestly feel like I still would have read it quickly without the time constraints. That’s partially because it’s such a short book. The Giver weighs in at only 179 pages so reading it really won’t take long at all. The subject matter and characters are quite interesting also so that helps speed up the pace of the book.
Jonas, the main character, starts off a little flat but is forced to develop very quickly once he is given the role of Receiver in Training. He is a Twelve when he starts his training (I’m assuming twelve-years-old) but he quickly gains the maturity of someone much older and wiser. Through his role as Receiver in Training he is given all the memories of the world. Those memories include war, hunger, slaughter, but also sunshine, snow, and love. All these things no longer exist in the society in which Jonas lives but it’s the job of the Receiver of Memory to hold these memories so that at least one person has the wisdom of the past. Jonas is an easy character to relate to in part because it’s almost impossible to relate to any of the other characters, other than the Giver. Feelings don’t exist for the other characters and so readers won’t really understand their motives or thoughts. I know I was shocked at some of the things that people assumed were okay. The Giver is also very easy to relate to and I saw him as a sort of father or grandfather figure to Jonas.
The story brings up lots of questions, like any good dystopian novel should. The Giver will force readers to look at the past and the future and how each plays a role to the other. It’s a thought provoking novel that shows a lot more depth than most books written for people in this age group. Also, while Jonas is a Twelve and the book is written for people around that age, it does not show. The Giver is not dumbed down at all for younger readers. It shows the darker side of humanity without being gory or overdone.
Overall, The Giver is a wonderful novel that I’m glad I finally found the chance to read. I know the rest of the series does not focus on the same characters and I’m eager to see how that is done by Lois Lowry.
What others have to say about The Giver:
Read Breathe Relax’s review: “This book will make you remember the first time you realized truths about your world that you wished you hadn’t learned.”
Thinking Out Loud’s review: “This is a story that rallies against the sacrifice of freedom for the sake of sameness and peaceful control.”
Two Moms Reading’s review: “I did enjoy The Giver, though I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, based on how many people I see raving about it.”