The Giver by Lois Lowry, paperback novel, 224 pages, first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1993, this edition published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2008.
Jonas lives in the perfect world of the community, where everything is orderly and precise, the rules are strict, and nothing ever changes. There is no inequity or inequality within the community, no diversity, no poverty, no war, no grief, even the family units are assigned by the Elders, nothing is left to chance. It is a community that has been so regulated and controlled that the people cannot imagine any other life could exist or has ever existed.
Upon becoming twelve, the children of the community are assigned their adult roles, in which they will train and then work for the rest of their lives, but Jonas’ assignment is different, he is selected to be the Receiver of Memory, a highly honoured and rare profession that only one member of the community performs. It is a destiny for one with bravery, intelligence and strength, and the “Capacity to See Beyond”. As Jonas embarks upon his training to become the next Receiver, he learns terrible and wonderful things about the world, and the past, that can hardly be believed. It brings him joy and pain and love, emotions that he has not previously experienced. Knowing the truth may prove too much for Jonas to bear.
One of my favourite book genres is dystopian and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novels, so I can hardly imagine how such a wonderful book slipped under my radar until now! From the first chapter, I was caught up in the world of the community and in Jonas’ life. I devoured The Giver, experiencing Jonas’ emotions as the life he has always known is exposed as lies, and feeling sorrow, anger and pain with him and for him. The removal of each person’s ability to choose their destiny and life felt like a personal sleight and betrayal, and I became a bit teary when I realised what baby Gabe’s fate would be. Needless to say, I really became immersed within this story, always a sign of a very good book.
I felt that the story ended somewhat abruptly, and unsatisfactorily. I think that was only because I wanted to know more about Jonas’ and Gabe’s lives and what was happening within the community. I wanted to know what happened to Jonas’ family and his friends, but the answers I sought were left to the reader to envisage. I know that this is a common way to end a novel, but sometimes I just really want a concrete finish. However, this tiny disappointment was short-lived, and is the way I often feel when I’ve just finished an excellent book. What can I say, I’m greedy and always want more from my favourite books and authors! It certainly has not dissuaded me from recommending that The Giver be read by everyone, especially those keen on tales of dystopia, and I will definitely be reading his one again.
The Giver is suitable for high school students, and more mature upper primary school students, but adults will also enjoy this book. I have been told there is a movie of The Giver now, but the book is always better, so if you plan to see the film, make sure you read the book first, it is well worth it!