The Giver is a dystopian children's novel by Lois Lowry. It is set in a society which is at first presented as a utopian society and gradually appears more and moredystopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to "Sameness," a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of "Receiver of Memory," the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. When Jonas meets the previous receiver—The "Giver"—he is confused in many ways. The Giver is also able to break some rules, such as turning off the speaker and lying to people of the community. As Jonas receives the memories from the Giver, he discovers the power of knowledge. The people in his community are happy because they do not know of a better life, but the knowledge of what they are missing out on could create major chaos. He faces a dilemma: Should he stay with the community, his family living a shallow life without love, color, choices, and knowledge, or should he run away to where he can live a full life?
Despite controversy and criticism that the book's subject material is inappropriate for young children, The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal and has sold more than 8 million copies. In Australia, the United States, and Canada, it is a part of many middle school reading lists, but it is also on many challengedbook lists and appeared on the American Library Association's list of most challenged books of the 1990s.
The novel forms a loose quartet with three other books set in the same future era: Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004) and Son (2012).
I came across Lois Lowry because I think I was suppose to. It is kind of like why I read Flannery O'Connor. I kept on hearing or reading Lois' name. Her new book "Son" came out this year and so The New York Times had an article about her writing, specifically focusing on the quartet mentioned above. I had not heard of this book, likely due to my less interest in utopian books/science fiction, fantasy, etc. However, I kept on coming across her name as an author. I checked into her writing and found she not only wrote sci/fi or fantasy, but also good old children's fiction. I read "Gooney Bird Greene" (2002) with my 2nd grader and four year old. They thought the book was hilarious. It helped that the main character Gooney Bird Greene is a second grader like my son. The book was amusing for adults and children. Back to "The Giver"- I thought this book reminded me a lot of "The Hunger Games" recently hyped up in our society/media. However, the premise is less gory/brutal, but parts of the book reminded me of how people could be manipulated by one or a few to live a certain way, behave a certain way, co-exist. I felt the same way about this book as I did "The Hunger Games" - I didn't really feel like either book was meant for the young "junior high" readers, but more high school readers, but maybe that is because I'm getting old and don't know what junior high readers are reading. The subject matter was tough at times and although people weren't actively killing each other in a "game" there was still some brutality that tugged at my heart.
It will be interesting to see when I introduce this book and the other to my children. Or will they go out on their own and find these wonderful books and be mature enough to get the story and deep meaning. Lois Lowry is a wonderful writer and I look forward to reading the other three of the quartet. So if you haven't picked up one of her books and you are like me in your late 30's or older- do so now!