Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Giver by Lois Lowry... A Review

In a World of Sameness, there is Hope to be found in the Memories of Our Past...

Imagine a “perfect” world... perfect because it is filled with sameness... There is no sunshine, no cold, no color... each family has 2 children, a boy and a girl, and everything, and I mean everything, is planned out and accounted for. Who you marry, what your profession shall be, what clothes you can wear growing up... There is no fear or pain, or feelings what so ever...


Set in a futuristic world, the story centers around Jonas, who at age 12 is singled out to train to become the new Receiver of Memory. There is only one Receiver, and this person holds all the memories of the pain and pleasures of life from way way back, before there was sameness. And so, Jonas is to receive all the memories one at a time from The Giver...


Up to the point where Jonas is named the new Receiver we learn about the community where Jonas lives... Everyone is extremely polite, no one is ostracized or highly praised, people can apply for a spouse and are assigned a person deemed compatible by a panel. Then the couple is assigned a boy and a girl from a pool of "newchildren", born from birthmothers who have exactly 3 births, never see their birth children and then are assigned heavy labor for the rest of their lives. Children at the age of 12 are assigned a job in the community based on their skills and interests that have been carefully observed as they volunteer in different community areas.

When the children are grown, the family unit dissolves and the adults live out there lives with other childless adults until they are too old to function in society and then go to "The House of Old". From there they are eventually "released" from society.


Of course none of this sounds too bad, until you see the glimpses of the rules in black & white. When people (children included) don't measure up to the rest of society, such as not learning proper behavior, they are given a few chances to correct their ways, but if they don't conform they are "released". Babies that don't develop at a measured rate are "released". If twins are born, one is "released" based on weight, because you simply can't have 2 of the same people walking around. The community seems pretty normal until some of these quirks start popping up. But this is all the community has known, until Jonas starts receiving the memories...


The red of an apple, the blue of the sky, the coldness of a snowflake against your face, the feeling of love... these are the memories Jonas starts to receive and it changes his world forever. What follows is heartbreaking at times, such as when Jonas asks his father "Do you love me?", and is given a lecture on a love being a generalized and meaningless word. But Jonas is changed by these new feelings and in a final act of desperation and love breaks out of his "mold" and becomes a loving, caring, individual...


The Giver is haunting... Even 15 years later, the writing is fresh and contemporary. Words used such as newchildren instead of newborns, "releasing" versus murdering, Assignments, Precision of Language, The House of Old, are subtle phrasing with very serious connotations. The Giver has been on the banned books list almost since it's publication in 1993. Some of the themes found objectionable are suicide, sexuality, and euthanasia. The theme of euthanasia was disturbing... But watching Jonas bloom as an individual was wonderful. It is a powerful novel, deceptively wrapped in a small 179 page package with simple language, but sometimes good things come in small packages and this is one of those times....


Have you read The Giver yet? I'd love to hear what you thought about the book! Instead of banning this book, why not take the opportunity to discuss the topic of suicide or euthanasia? How about the value of individuality? Dealing with peer pressures? Let me know how you feel!


This book is part of the DystopYA Reading Challenge! Dystopian fiction is generally fiction about a world that is attempting to be perfect but contains a fatal flaw. It's the opposite of a utopia. This can take the form of a fascist government, a failing environment, corporate rule - anything. In it, life is miserable and people have to strive to rise above. This book certainly fits that bill!


*P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

20 comments:

Mary said...

I read this when it was first published. My oldest was in junior high (in a Catholic school where she found the book on the library shelf!) and interested in reading it. I read it either before or right after she did and we discussed. We both really liked the book - probably more for the discussions it prompted than the actual content. I'm glad we read it.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

This will have to be a re-read for me. I read it in sixth grade but remember almost nothing! Thanks for reminding me about this one.

thekams said...

This book is one of my all-time favourites, I was glad to see such a good review =)

mel u said...

I read The Giver last month-I really enjoyed it also-Have you read any of the companion books to The Giver? I am not 100 percent happy with the ending of the giver but the world she create is very credible-

Lenore said...

I love dystopian fiction and this is one of the greats!

Suzanne said...

Hi Mary,
I am so glad you took the opportunity to read The Giver together with your daughter! It's the kind of book that is made for sharing. I asked one of my friends to read it so I could discuss it with someone, I just couldn't keep all I wanted to say to myself! Thanks for sharing!

Suzanne said...

Hi Bookshelf Monstrosity,
When you re-read this I would love to know if you remember it differently... I think my maternal instincts were rising up in me with the release of the twin baby...

Suzanne said...

Hey thekams!
Thanks for the nice words about my review! It was such a well written story!

Hi mel u,
I haven't read any of the other books, but will probably read them based on the fact I really liked the authors writing. I was so upset with the ending! Did you think of it in a positive light or negative?

Hi Lenore!
Well, I never read any Dystopian fiction before, but I have to say that it's addictive! I read The Maze Runner and will be cracking the spine on The Uglies next. Any other recommendations?

mel u said...

Suzanne-I am not clear yet on how I regarded the ending-it seemed like a selfish decision on the part of Jason as he is abandoning the community that does need him but on the other hand he is starting to experience a wider world-as a literary device I did not really like it-

Have you read her wonderful book "Numbering the Stars" about The Danes efforts to save their Jews during WWII?

Sharon said...

Great review! I haven't read this one yet but have looked at it several times. I guess it is time to get it! Thanks!

coffeestainedpages said...

Great review! Very well written. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it too. :)

Jessica (BookLover) said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read this book. I plan on it, though. :)

Great review! I suddenly wish I had it in my hands right now. I love dystopian novels.

Jess said...

I haven't read this book, but I love reading Lois Lowery books. Great review, I can't wait to actually read this one. :)

Katy said...

I read it earlier this year. It was really memorable. It's one of those books that stays with you.

Book pusher said...

I will definitely be looking for this book. Your reading some seriously interesting dystopian fiction.

Lisa said...

All three of my kids read this book in school but I haven't read it yet. I probably should!

Suzanne said...

Hi Mel!
Yes, I thought it may have been a bit selfish too, not sure if Jason could think of any other way of protecting his fellow traveler.

Hi Sharon & Jessica!
Thanks so much for the compliments on the review! I can safely say this is a book everyone should pick up. It's a very memorable little read that really asks you to think way beyond what's written in the pages!

Hi coffeestainedpages,
Glad you enjoyed the review! Easy to write one for a book that really leaves you thinking...

Suzanne said...

Hi Jess,
This is my first Lois Lowry book and I think I'm going to pick up her others. Some people refer to The Giver Trilogy... is that because they are all Dystopian?

Hi Katy,
Thanks for stopping by! I was so surprised how well it was written and am glad I picked it up! I'm glad you enjoyed it as well!

Suzanne said...

Hi Book Pusher!
Definitely pick this up! You will enjoy it! Thanks for all your Dystopian recommendations too! One of which will be for my Japanese Lit Challenge!

Suzanne said...

Hi Lisa!
It was a wonderfully written book! I wish I had read it when I was younger! I'd be curious what they thought of it. I think as adults we may analyze books differently.

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