by Lois Lowry
Jonas’ 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
Short and direct, Lowry reveals the stark hideousness of Sameness. Jonas, who at age eleven would today still be considered a child, is eager to receive his Assignment – that is, what he will be doing with the rest of his life. Except Jonas isn’t Assigned, he is Selected. And from here, the tumultuous plot transpires.
It might be bold of me to say this, but I think every child and adult entertains the idea of a world with no war, no pain, no bullies, etc. at least once in his or her life. This isn’t an original idea, but Lowry is prepared to display the cost of such a world. The sacrifices made are known only to a few, but to the child who has to suffer them all, how does he cope?
What if you had to follow the same routine each day, everything was assigned and predetermined. You’d hate it, right? What if you never knew another way? Would you hate it then? Chances are you wouldn’t even know what Hate is. This is the idea that Lowry explores. While on somewhat of a forced, obvious agenda, The Giver explores humanity. While some critics debate the propaganda of Lowry’s novel, I can’t say I entirely agree. True, The Giver is not far from anti-socialist works, but it barely covers the surface. The novel is much too ambiguous to be sufficient in this purpose. In interviews, Lowry openly admits to not having imagined the mechanics of the society of The Giver. The beginning and cause to each aspect of the society is extremely vague; the plot mainly driven by how the citizens react to the society that exists.
The Giver, in the hands of both children and adults, evokes imagination of Utopia. And then Lowry challenges that notion by questioning if the sacrifices are truly beneficial to the outcome. I think it is a good story for all readers. I remember reading it as a child and it is certainly a different read so many years later. Due to the character’s predictable conscious, it was a bit difficult to empathize with Mother, Father, Lilly, Asher, and Fiona. Not until Jonas and Giver began to experience emotion was I, as a reader, more able to engage the mind of the character. This is where the emotional tugging occurred. It’s worth reading to the second half of the novel. It’s a short novel though, so readers shouldn’t have too much difficulty working through the monotony of the society until Jonas receives his first memories.
I give The Giver four out of five stars.