The Giver

The Giver book cover Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Publication Year: 1993
Pages: 180
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Count for Year: 58

How I discovered

Four years ago, my wife’s aunt gave us a pile of books left over from book clubs in which she had been. This was one of them– all critically-acclaimed books like this one which won the 1994 Newbery Medal and most all of them still unread.

Since then, for some reason, my wife thought I would hate this book. She hadn’t read it, mind you, but she heard someone who read it and hated the ending. However, one of my wife’s sister says this book is one of her favorite books.

The setup

“It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.”

Thus opens this haunting novel in which a boy inhabits a seemingly ideal world: a world without conflict, poverty, unemployment, divorce, injustice or inequality. It is a time in which family values are paramount, teenage rebellion is unheard of, and even good manners are a way of life.

December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve year old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man– the man called only The Giver– he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world.

— from the book jacket

I read this for my own Personal Banned Book Reading Challenge and also for Book Awards II Reading Challenge, since I had had it on my shelf for so long (as mentioned above). I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect, despite the negative review my wife had heard about it. I thought I’ll keep an open mind and see what happens. At only 180 pages, it wouldn’t be a total loss if I hated it, I thought.

At first, I thought I might hate it as I was put off by all the capitalizations. First page: “Pilot” in middle of sentence, then “Street Cleaners, Landscape Workers and Food Delivery people” on the second page.  However, by the introduction of the Speaker also on the second page, I began to understand the Orwellian world which Lowry was creating and appreciate what she was doing, with people known by their job descriptions.

Then on the third page, when Jonas began to search for the right word to describe what he was feeling, I was intrigued and by the fourth page when he kept searching for the right word until he found it: apprehensive, I was hooked into the story.

As the story develops, the reader learns that his mother and father aren’t really his birthmother and birthfather; his sister, not really his sister. On top of that, almost every aspect of his life is controlled, even “The Stirrings,” the beginning of puberty, with a pill and while he already can see the Assignments his friends probably will be given (and most of them are), he doesn’t know what his own will be. It is something he still doesn’t know after receiving his Assignment to be “Receiver of Memory”– whatever that means.

Then she turned and left the stage, left him there alone, standing and facing the crowd, which began spontaneously the collective murmur of his name.

“Jonas.” It was a whisper at first: hushed, barely audible. “Jonas. Jonas.”

Then louder, faster. “JONAS. JONAS. JONAS.”

With the chant, Jonas knew, the community was accepting him and his new role giving him life, the way they had given it to the newchild Caleb. His heart swelled with gratitude and pride.

But at the same time he was filled with fear. He did not know what his selection meant. He did not know what he was to become.

Or what would become of him.

After The Giver places his hands on Jonas’s back (which honestly creeped me out a bit at first, because I thought “perverted old man”) and “gives” him his first memories of snow, sledding, sunshine and then sunburn, both pleasure and pain, the reader realizes that something will have to change in Jonas’s memoryless world or else he will have to leave it. He won’t be able to stay in such a world.

So what will he do? Under the rules of his Assignment, he can’t be “released from the community,” which isn’t clearly defined, but the reader has a premonition that whatever it means, it isn’t good– after Lowry writes of both young and old being “released” and never being seen in the community again. So how will he escape or will he? And what else will he learn about the community to which he belongs?

I will say no more and instead encourage you to pick up this book which I read from front to back in one sitting. I literally could not put it down as I read it this afternoon at our local library.

This is easily the best book so far of my own banned books challenge, and high on my list of best books I’ve read this year or any year. Final analysis: 5/5. Deserves to be called a modern classic.

As for why it’s been challenged, I won’t say too much, in order not to give away anything. I will just say like I’ve said with at least one of the others I’ve reviewed so far: “Hogwash!” as Lowry is not promoting to what some may object.

If you’ve read and reviewed this book on your blog, send a link to justareadingfool (at) gmail (dot) com or leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the bottom of this post.

Others who have read and reviewed this book:

19 responses to “The Giver

  1. Pingback: Saturday’s Me and You 10/4 « An unfinished person (in this unfinished universe)

  2. I honestly have no idea why this book would be banned or challenged. It’s easily one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. Thanks for linking to my review!

  3. Does anyone know where I can find the entire book online to read? I have been searching forever and have yet to find anything.


  4. i hated this book so much it was so g@y now i have 2 do a book report on it this sux

  5. i hated this book so much it was so g@y and stupid now i have to do a book report on it this sux.

  6. Pingback: TSS: Top five books I read this year and looking ahead « Unfinished Person

  7. We had been assigned this book in English class. When our class first got the book everyone started groaning because it did not look that interesting, but it is interesting. I have to admit the ending was lame! Lois could have had added so much more.

  8. i am reading this book now and it kind of bores me to tears! it doesn’t really fit with the books i like but i am required to read it for college…so…

  9. I read your review after you mentioned on Rebecca’s review that you did one too, and this one is great 🙂 Thank you! Now I have to go read it…

  10. Glad you enjoyed it! What a great summary/introduction for those who haven’t read it before. I think it did take me several reads to really wrap my head around this book, and I’ve loved it every time.

  11. Isn’t this a fantastic book? I absolutely loved it. Read it for a book group three or four years ago. We had quite a good discussion!

  12. I reviewed The Giver earlier this year:

    It was a good story.

  13. I read The Giver last year and loved it. Since then I’ve recommended it to everyone. The two sequels are worth reading, but not unless one has read The Giver first.

  14. I love this book! I read it for the first time as a middle schooler and new I had a lifelong friend. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll have to reread it soon.

  15. The Giver haunted me as a child. I thought it was so beautifully written. I loved it! I should re-read it…

    I also wanted to thank you very much for your participation in the first month of the Lit Flicks Challenge. You just happen to have won the drawing for the first month. Shoot me and email, and I’ll email you the info about your prize!

  16. I really liked this one up until the ending… but I’m one of the ones who thought the ending was terrible.

  17. belleofthebooks

    I’m so glad that you decided to keep an open mind and read this! The Giver is one of my favorite books. I read it when I was young enough not to know its controversy and as a result, the book shaped much of my outlook on life. I still think about it sometimes, although I sometimes wish there was some council that could tell me what I should do with my life (other than read). So glad that you enjoyed it! A similar book that I loved (and others hated) is Anthem by Ayn Rand. You should check it out.

  18. Doug Glickert

    Wow – I can’t wait to read it. Have you written any poetry recently? Doug