Beautiful as this book is, it ISN'T appropriate for my nine-year old. Not because of the very mild and beautifully drawn budding sexuality of the protagonist, Jonas. Rather, the themes are deep and disturbing enough--and the ending open-ended enough--that I don't think a preteen would be able to take it all in. But for a teenager--or an adult--I think it is a wonderful, provocative read.
Jonas lives in a community where a group of Elders select everything including one’s parents, career, spouse and children. All the negative aspects of society have been removed and the community lives in a safe world of sameness, but unfortunately many of the positive aspects of life have also been removed.
At his Ceremony of Twelve Jonas is assigned the position of Receiver of Memory. The Receiver holds all the memories of the past that include both pleasant and painful ones. The idea is by having the Receiver, the community is not burdened with this knowledge.
During his training sessions the current Receiver of Memory, and now Giver of Memory transfers the memories of the past, that include positive memories like the excitement of riding a sled in the snow but also painful memories like war, famine and death.
As Jonas begins to experience these memories he learns some shocking secrets about the how the community is managed and begins to question the world he is living in.
The novel has a rather ambiguous ending, which while hopefully will leave readers in thought may frustrate some.
The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal and is frequently included on top young adult literature lists, but it is also one of the top 25 most frequently challenged or banned books in America.
A film adaptation was released in 2014 starring Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep.
Jonas has been chosen to become the new receiver, the holder of the memories, and the only person who knows what life was like before and what it could be again. He sees how shallow their existence is since the sameness took effect. What Jonas calls everyday life I see as a living nightmare, no choices to make, no feelings, no color. Life is…boring because it’s safer that way.
This was a great start to a series I’ve been meaning to read for ages. A quick and enjoyable read that’s suitable for all ages. I can’t wait to read Gathering Blue!
Due to the content, I would not recommend it for children younger than 12, and advise parental participation in it's exploration. But I believe it to be too important to society to be missed out on.
The central story is based around a boy named Jonas who is nearing the age of twelve in which he will be given his adulthood profession and begin his training. His family unit is like all others in the community where the most intimate actions they share as a family, is sharing of feelings, sharing of dreams, etc. during certain times of the day. In aging, if adults are deemed to be socially capable, they have the option of receiving a spouse, not by their preference, and further one son and one daughter creating a family unit. None of those in the family units are actually related by blood to each other though and again, this is only an option if social requirements have been met. This also applies to newborn babies; if they can sleep through the night without crying and behave as a well-behaved newborn baby should, they are given to a family unit and in failure to do so, they are ‘released’ from life. This detail is important because Jonas’ father brings home a newborn who needs a little extra attention to learn how to act socially correct so he may live and be nurtured by a family unit in the future. Even though the family tries to avoid it, Jonas in particular gradually grows to love this baby who they call Gabriel. When Jonas reaches the age of twelve, he receives the occupation of Receiver of Memory which is a most honored position however he doesn’t understand this until he meets his mentor, the current Receiver of Memory or Giver, which he is to become. After schooling, he meets regularly with the Giver who knows all according to the leaders through memories he has received and books he has read, and he passes this information to Jonas through dream-sharing. Through the process, Jonas becomes aware of human emotions, the sensations and reality of what weather was like, war and violence, disease, music, color; things that people in the community could not even fathom. Explaining these things doesn’t make any sense to Jonas until he has felt them for himself. With these realizations he now understands, he is more curious of why his community is the way it is, what releasing is and why it occurs, and injustices that take place in the community. He gets frustrated, upset, and saddened now because those in his community have no idea about anything really; they are satisfied right where they are. When Gabriel is ultimately scheduled for release, Jonas’ fire is ignited and he takes action against this society he lives in. He takes Gabriel and leaves to Elsewhere, where he and Gabriel will be safe to feel, to love, to live in different weather patterns, with joy at times and pain in others. In this endeavor, Jonas creates memories of his own and he saves Gabriel’s life as well as his own.
While reading, I was both intrigued and frustrated simultaneously; intrigued because I was curious to see how the protagonist would rise above and go beyond the norm to challenge injustices which occurred, and frustrated because the characters could not understand how wrong their world was in controlling them. Sameness is what is acceptable as it is also what is most easily controlled to keep the society functioning as it does but in the instances in which twins were born, the child who weighed more was given the chance for a family unit while the other was released from life. I was most troubled by this because I am a twin and if this were true for me and my twin, my twin sister would not be here and what people don’t understand is a bond is formed between twins in the womb, not easily broken. Also, when love is mentioned, Jonas’ mother expresses the term ‘love’ as being ‘overused’ unintentionally making Jonas sad. Humans are created with human emotion—we cry when we’re born—to deny this is to deny are very selves which is how the people are in this story. To give all this to one person is empowering to them in the same way it is burdensome.
I thought it was obvious that this book is about a totally undesirable dystopian future. Who wants to be told as a preteen what he is going to be doing for the rest of his life no matter what he might think. Who wants to be told, as in this "Giver" “utopia,” that she will be forced to give birth for the rest of her life?! Talk about labor pains. This is so completely socialism gone awry that even sight is affected as nearly every living human being now sees in black and white.
Now I don’t know about you, but that certainly does not seem like a utopia to me. Lowry writes this book in such a brilliant way, however, that you can sympathize with the people of this "Giver" world for thinking they are living the perfect life. No war, no disputes, no violence or fighting of any kind. With each essential task assigned to a community member, these people can live in peace knowing that their village will continue to function for years to come. Without that pesky free will to get in the way, nobody need ever worry about anything ever again.
We know, however, that free will ain’t all that bad. It’s that knowledge that makes it glaringly obvious this world is no utopia, but a dystopia. The only time free will is ever okay to be taken away is when wearing the Sorting Hat. That little guy knows which Hogwarts House I should belong to way better than I ever will.
With a thought-provoking plot and characters I can’t help but connect with, "The Giver" is a definite must read.
Jonas has a childhood many people would wish for. He has structure, order, purpose, affection. He is never hungry or frightened. He knows his place in the world, and he is content with it. Then, as he turns 12, he is selected for a special job, one that destroys his world by making him look deeper into it, to understand why it happens the way it does, what the moral cost of his comfort is.
I should have read this book years ago. My mom finally gave up and bought it for my Kindle because we were talking about THE TERRORISTS OF IRUSTAN, and bounded societies.
The Sameness reminded me of the dys/utopia in Madeline L'Engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME, where all the children bounce balls at the same time, and all the mothers call the children in at the same time. There is obviously this thread of fear and horror in both books about being required to be regimented, or pay a terrible price. I wonder if it's a coincidence that THE GIVER and WRINKLE IN TIME were written by women at a time when women were fighting to get out of the regimented and nicey-nicey world. To go on one's own, beyond the boundaries of civilization and rules, is fearful and dangerous and you don't know how it's going to end, but sometimes you have to head for the woods, or the giant throbbing brain, whichever is relevant. Interestingly, Lowry's character, Jonas, is male, and I would perhaps have found the story less interesting if he were female, because the choice he made might be considered traditionally feminine. The gender roles were actually pretty interesting through the whole book.
I thought the characters were sketched in lightly, but the plot and problem were compelling, and it almost makes sense that personality was not something Jonas thought a lot about. Lowry did a great job of capturing the incuriousity some children have about adult things.
Read if: You want to think about what you are used to and the value or lack thereof in compliance and equality.
Skip if: You are horrified by utopias, your issues are not about fear of being the same.
By Lois Lowry
Review by Rebecca Stephens
The Giver is about a boy named Jonas who lives in a community where everything is very organized and thought out, Jonas is from an ordinary family unit. He just doesnt realize how unordinary hell become.
Jonas is an Eleven. Soon hell be a twelve, an adult. Twelve is the most important ceremony there is. When you become a twelve you get assigned a job. Hes thought about the many different jobs he could end up with. None of them are very enticing, some less then others. But, Hes not worried. The Elders never make mistakes.
Jonas is selected, not assigned, to be the new Receiver. He has no idea what that is. Hes scared; the Chief elder said that it involved pain. She also said that its a great honor. Jonas has no idea what to expect, but this is his new assignment.
He soon finds out that a Receiver holds the worlds memories. Some of them are truly painful, such as war. Others are much more enjoyable, such as a strange wonderful thing called Christmas.
The current Receiver is a kind old man. He has told Jonas to call him the Giver, because he will be the one to give Jonas all the memories he now holds. He has shown Jonas that the people around him dont really feel. They know nothing. Jonas knows pain, and suffering, love, and joy. But they dont.
Jonas must find a way to stop this. To make them see what is truly like to feel. But to find out you must read the book, and decide for yourself what it is like to live in his world.This book is very enjoyable, and different. I can honestly say Ive never read a book that is remotely similar. Jonas is brave, smart, and a great character all together. The Giver gave me a new perspective on life.