Thursday, March 25, 2010

Amaranthine Review: The Giver

In the "ideal" world into which Jonas was born, everybody has sensibly agreed that well-matched married couples will raise exactly two offspring, one boy and one girl. These children's adolescent sexual impulses will be stifled with specially prescribed drugs; at age 12 they will receive an appropriate career assignment, sensibly chosen by the community's Elders.
This is a world in which the old live in group homes and are "released"--to great celebration--at the proper time; the few infants who do not develop according to schedule are also "released," but with no fanfare.

Lowry's development of this civilization is so deft that her readers, like the community's citizens, will be easily seduced by the chimera of this ordered, pain-free society. Until the time that Jonas begins training for his job assignment--the rigorous and prestigious position of Receiver of Memory--he, too, is a complacent model citizen. But as his near-mystical training progresses, and he is weighed down and enriched with society's collective memories of a world as stimulating as it was flawed, Jonas grows increasingly aware of the hypocrisy that rules his world.

With a storyline that hints at Christian allegory and an eerie futuristic setting, this intriguing novel calls to mind John Christopher's Tripods trilogy and Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl. Lowry is once again in top form--raising many questions while answering few, and unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers.

[from Goodreads]
Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Middle grade readers
High point: The roundabout way Ms. Lowry explains Jonas' world
Low point: Best for MG readers
Reader maturity:  10+
Favorite quotes:  "The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared."
"...'Still,' he said slowly, almost to himself, 'I did like the light they made. And the warmth.' "

The Giver was required reading for my 8th grade pre-AP English class. I missed the subtleties of it the first time through, not picking up on the major cost of abandoning memory. After my oversight was pointed out to me, I reread the book, paying special attention to descriptions and the feelings that Jonas experiences. The 2nd read-through was wonderful. The book clicked. I was amazed at the world Lois Lowry created using such simple imagery and allusions.

In The Giver, we are introduced to Jonas and his family. They live in a utopia, where people marry because they are good matches, children are borne through specially selected women only and no one feels pain or suffering. All feelings are stifled, and only one person carries the memories of the townspeople.

This book speaks of the evils of extremist ways of thought. Pain and suffering are necessary for happiness and joy to be true feelings. Forgetting the ways of our forefathers leads to a questionable ethical system. Is the sacrifice of one or two worth the so-called good of the many? What if the good of the many really isn't so good?

The writing is simple, created for pre-teen and young teen readers, but the message is strong. Ms. Lowry created a world similar to our own and then showed it through the eyes of Jonas, encouraging the reader to draw their own conclusions about the right and wrong of the actions that take place, just as Jonas does. This prevents the novel from being preachy or moralizing. Jonas' journey is long, but in the end, we find that the human spirit triumphs when given the chance.

Title:  The Giver
Author:  Lois Lowry
Genre:  Teen Ficion, Science Fiction
Year:  1993
Book Source:  Purchased


  1. I love this book. I've read it so many times.

  2. I loved this book growing up. Reread a few years ago and appreciated it even more.

  3. Great review!! This is definitely a favorite of mine, from when I was younger.

  4. Oooo one of my favs too!

    PS Your header is seriously GORGEOUS! Victorian meets the 50s? I LOVE it! BRAVO! :D

    Happy Friday!
    Tales of :)

  5. I liked The Giver, too. Have you read anything else by Lowry?

  6. Isn't The Giver Amazing? :-D

    Juju--Thanks so much!

    Chelle--I've also read Number the Stars and Gathering Blue. I'm trying to find Messenger to complete the companion books to The Giver. GB was good; I have a review for it planned soon!

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It's been years since, but it's one I've thought about. And thank you. Because I'd forgotten the title! Now I'll swing on over to my Books To Buy list and add it!

  8. I didn't read this till I was an adult...and was blown away. Messenger was a huge disappointment, though...