The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1) by Lois Lowry (1994)
Middle Grade Fiction | Dystopian
“Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.”
pooled ink Review:
The Giver is a beautiful book. I first read it in seventh grade as part of our reading curriculum but I’ve read it many times since. This may have been the first dystopian fiction book I had ever read. I could be wrong since I actually read many dystopian and philosophical/ethical books in seventh and eight grade (Ayn Rand, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, and others). But regardless this book has stuck with me since the first time I read it. We were assigned to read about two chapters or so a night for homework but when I cracked it open I just swallowed the whole thing because it was incredible.
This book was recently (well I suppose the process began ten years ago) made into a movie and I love it. I’ve heard lots of debate on the movie (some hate it, some love it, blah blah blah. Maybe it didn’t go deep enough but that’s what the book is for or has this world learned nothing? The book is always the heart) but the people who made the movie understood the book and I feel that they got the point (praise for Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep). Did they change details and plot points around? Yes and I admit I felt a bit iffy with some of them. But what movie doesn’t change around the book? And the important thing is they nailed the point of the book. I mention the movie because I struggled to envision how on earth this book could possibly be adapted into one. Most of it is the inner dialogue of Jonas as he learns, feels, sees, hears, and experiences things for the first time in his sessions with the Giver. Also it’s always interesting to me to see what elements a director finds the most important to direct and drive the book-to-movie adaptation.
There are perhaps elements in the book that are a bit underdeveloped as in she doesn’t spend as much time describing places, objects, or people as other books might. But it doesn’t hinder the book at all. In fact it actually emphasizes the point greatly.
Lowry writes of a utopia, a place of complete equality, clarity, and order. And the thing is it all makes sense. I mean it’s crazy and convoluted but it makes sense. You can see how it makes sense and why oh why they so desperately sought to take away the pain of this world. But it’s like the Giver says, how can one understand happiness without knowing sadness? Joy without pain?
This book reaches out and touches you emotionally and intellectually. My favorite moment in the movie version is towards the end of the movie with the montage of memories. It’s so beautiful and painful at the same time. It’s overwhelming and it makes me want to scream, cheer, laugh, and cry. All I can see is the diversity and struggle and beauty of human beings and all I can think is this, this is what humans are, what makes humans unique and beautiful, this is why we fight for freedom, this is everything at once, and this is what I’d never give up.
It’s hard to put the point of this book into words. But if you read it I know you’ll feel it.
As far as the book goes if you’re expecting lots of battle scenes like in The Hunger Games or romance like in Divergent then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. This book contains love and action but it’s not the point of the book. This book is more than just pop culture or even the story of Jonas (the main character) but rather it is speaking of a larger matter and of something far more precious.
If your school doesn’t make you read it for class then take it upon yourself to read it on your own because it’s a classic and not without reason.
Purchase here: The Giver
Meet Lois Lowry!
I’ve always felt that I was fortunate to have been born the middle child of three. My older sister, Helen, was very much like our mother: gentle, family-oriented, eager to please. Little brother Jon was the only boy and had interests that he shared with Dad; together they were always working on electric trains and erector sets; and later, when Jon was older, they always seemed to have their heads under the raised hood of a car. That left me in-between, and exactly where I wanted most to be: on my own. I was a solitary child who lived in the world of books and my own vivid imagination.