A review of “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

A ridiculously dystopian teen novel that gives “Brave New World” a run for its money.

I read this along with my ten-year-old when it was assigned in school.

Jonas lives in a dystopia disguised as a utopia where everyone is cared for and all has a place. Everything is controlled, from the weather, to the number of births in each community. Every family unit is assigned two children and all jobs are assigned by the committee of elders based on an individual’s strengths and interests. There is no want, no lack or homeless. Crime is all but extinct (as are many animals) and the elder residents are pampered and taken care of until the day of their Release to Elsewhere. The children undergo a strict form of training where emphasis is on manners, precise language and obedience.

When Jonas turns twelve he is selected as the new Receiver of Memory. As the Receiver in Training , Jonas’ training consists of taking on all the community’s memories from the outgoing Receiver. Once his training begins, Jonas becomes privy to situations, places, sensations and feelings that has him quickly understanding that nothing is as it seems in his idyllic community. The world he lives in vastly differs from the memories of the Giver, and in some instances, is a flat out lie. As he gains knowledge of concepts such as family holidays, seasons, conflict and even color; Jonas realizes that the Sameness of his community is not ideal; it’s cruel brainwashing When faced with this truth, Jonas realizes that he also now has something that the rest of the community doesn’t …. a choice.

As far as novels that you must read because you are in school and it’s assigned goes, this is probably one of the better ones. I remember when I was in school all the books we had to read were completely boring it truly is a wonder I love reading after the dreck I was exposed to!

Jonas world is bleak and boring. Nobody sees color, everyone is taught to be painfully polite as they go about their lives volunteering at various places, discussing their dreams and feelings all the while being totally naïve to the things that they are missing. At least in the Hunger Games, the folks in District Twelve knew they had it bad… the people in Jonas’ community are like the proverbial frogs in the boiling pot. The Giver has provided quite a few topics of discussion for my son and I  as I am sure it has provided for his class and I am sure it will continue to provide in the future.

While the Giver is identified as Teen & Young Adult, do not, for one minute believe it is written on  an elementary level. The topics that are addressed, either in passing or in greater depth are compelling and thought provoking. Even after I finished this book, I find myself thinking about a person, situation or comment and still being affected. The cliffhanger ending will leave the reader with a mixed feeling of relief and curiosity. As part of a quartet of books by Lois Lowry, I am looking forward to reading more books in this series for more glimpses into dystopia through Lois Lowry’s eyes.

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