The Giver by Lois Lowry
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: 1993
The Short Version:
Jonas is an almost twelve year old in what appears to be a near perfect community but his life assignment leads to him learning the long protected secrets that make that apparent perfection possible.
Why I Read It:
It’s been on my TBR list for ages and the timing finally felt right.
Since I’m one of the last people I know to have read this book I’m going to go with the descriptions from Lois Lowry’s website
“It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.”
Thus opens this haunting novel in which a boy inhabits a seemingly ideal world: a world without conflict, poverty, unemployment, divorce, injustice, or inequality. It is a time in which family values are paramount, teenage rebellion is unheard of, and even good manners are a way of life.
December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve year old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man -the man called only the Giver -he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world.
Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.
I knew going into this book that most people I know who have read it have rated it quite highly. I’ve had it on my TBR list for ages but never really felt compelled to read it. I finally decided that now was the time.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked this book. I liked it a lot!. After reading a handful of Young Adult novels that fall into the Dystopia or Negative Utopia realm, I’d begun to feel burned out on the genre. Maybe that’s part of the reason this one has been languishing on my library wish list for so long.
Reading it now was excellent timing for me. I needed a change of pace/ genre and I needed something that was a pretty quick read and this book fit those requirements.
Although this is a short book and a quick read it’s definitely thought provoking. Jonas’s world appears to be rather safe and pleasant but a bit rigid and personality free. War and hatred don’t exist, but to make that happen there are strict rules that govern every element of life. Precise use of language is highly important and choice seems to have been eliminated. Adult roles are assigned to twelve year olds by the Elders.
Jonas’s assignment to be the receiver of the community’s collective memories gradually reveals the dark truths behind the pleasant facade of life. Although much of what is revealed to Jonas did not feel surprising to me, I enjoyed the way that it played out. The way that The Giver gradually revealed things to Jonas through memories was interesting and allowed the revealing to happen in bits and pieces.
It’s a book that I highly recommend for all ages of readers. It’s definitely one that is thought and discussion provoking.