on October 22, 2001
Jonas lives in a "perfect" world where war, disease, and suffering have all been eradicated. Everything is in order; everything is under control. The people have no worries or cares. The Community strives for "sameness," in which everyone and everything are the same and equal. To help the Community function as a cohesive unit, each member is assigned a position in society. When Jonas turns twelve, the Community selects him to be the new "Receiver of Memories." Only the "Giver" knows the truth and memories of the past, and now he must pass these memories on to Jonas.
The Giver is a wonderful book. Lois Lowry skillfully crafted an intriguing and profoundly thoughtful story. She subtly creates an uneasy feeling that something is wrong with this "perfect world." The Community's advisors intend to establish security within utopian society, but they really establish a stifling dystopia. To protect people from the risks of making poor or wrong decisions in life, the advisors plan and dictate the lives of the people. In effect, the citizens have no freedom of choice; they do not choose their job or even their spouse. Moreover, the advisors inhibit the people's ability to feel because they want to spare them from the hardships and pain of life. For instance, individuals must take a pill everyday, which suppresses passionate feelings. The citizens do not know or experience true emotions like love. One of the goals of the Community is to achieve "sameness" so that no one feels embarrassed or gets excluded for being different. However, this limits individuality and freedom of expression because everyone conforms to a certain desired image. Finally, to relieve the population of the horrors and devastation of the world and the past, the advisors isolate the Community from the rest of the world (also known as "Elsewhere) and give the burden of holding the memories of the past to a single member of society: the "Receiver." Therefore, the Community lives only in the present, and the people have a narrow perspective of life because they only know their community and way of life. They are naive; they do not gain knowledge or wisdom from the memories. While receiving the memories, Jonas learns a different and better way to live and realizes what he and the Community have been missing. He decides that something must be done to change the current conditions and enlighten his community.
Although it is a Newbery Award Winner, The Giver is a controversial book that has been challenged and even banned. After parents complained that the violent and sexual passages were inappropriate for children, the Bonita Unified School District in California temporarily banned the novel from classes. The Giver has been challenged in other school districts around the country for its "mature themes" of euthanasia, infanticide, and suicide. I do not agree with banning and challenging of this novel. It is a great book, and part of what makes it so great is the incorporation of these controversial issues. They force readers to wrestle with their own thoughts and figure out their stance on the issues. Good literature makes readers think. Banning this book takes away the freedom of speech, the freedom to read, and the freedom to learn and explore. The banning of The Giver is ironically similar to the actions of the Community that lead the Community to its suppressive and stifling state. A powerful story, The Giver keeps readers in suspense, touches them, and stays with them for a long time. I love this book, and I encourage everyone to read it.
on April 4, 2001
Jonas, an Eleven when THE GIVER opens, lives in a Community where everything is meticulously ordered: houses look alike, people dress alike, each family unit includes a father and a mother (who can apply for one male and one female child). Children begin their volunteer hours when they are Eights, and the Committee of Elders assigns them their roles in the Community at the Ceremony of Twelves. Because the people have chosen Sameness, nothing in their Community is unexpected, inconvenient, or unusual. They have no hills, no color, no cold, no sunshine. Their feelings are only superficial; their memories encompass only one generation. Pain is relieved instantly by taking a pill. They have abdicated choices.
The Receiver of Memory holds the position of highest honor within the Community, serving as the repository for the memories and knowledge of generations. Whenever the Committee of Elders are faced with a new situation, they are able to seek the counsel and advice of the Receiver. They have the benefit of experience without having to bear its pain.
Because of his intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom, and Capacity to See Beyond, Jonas is selected to be the next Receiver of Memory. The current Receiver, who has held the position for decades, then becomes the Giver.
Ms. Lowry paints a vivid picture of this Community. Referring to everyday concepts in a slightly unusual way helps to set that society apart from our own. Babies younger than one year are called "newchildren," for example; children of the same age are "groupmates"; the elderly, the unhealthy, or those who have broken the rules three times may be "released."
Why might parents or teachers consider THE GIVER inappropriate for their children? I can only speculate on this since I find the book profoundly original and commendable:
1. The setting being a community without freedom. It should be noted, however, that citizens relinquished their freedom years earlier in order to escape the accompanying chaos. They are perfectly satisfied with their arrangement and are not oppressed.
2. The family being depicted as a temporary sociological unit rather than a permanent socio-biological unit. Nevertheless, this family unit provides a very nurturing atmosphere.
3. References to "Stirrings" (sexual arousal). These occur only a few times in the book and are only vaguely described. Since Stirrings are forbidden in the Community, young people begin taking a preventative pill upon first experiencing them and continue taking it daily until they enter the House of the Old.
4. The idea of young people bathing the elderly of the opposite gender. This happens only once in the book. It is a gentle, caring, and (given the ages of the participants) asexual experience.
5. The concept of "release." This pervades the book, but its meaning remains uncertain until Chapter 19, when Jonas witnesses a release.
I would think that for many readers these concerns would be assuaged by Jonas, the young protagonist who, in the course of his instruction, recognizes the advantages of previous systems and selflessly tries to better his Community.
Although there are aspects of this Community that we may find unsettling, we must remember that Lowry is not advocating this system. She is, in fact, inviting us to consider whether our own society has any of the characteristics of the Community that disturb us:
Do we attempt to make our lives pain free?
Do we attempt to erase unpleasant memories?
Do we use euphemisms?
Do we use robotic phrases, as for apologies?
Do we have anything resembling the "House of the Old"?
Do we have a ritual that might be called a "Ceremony of Loss"?
Do we attempt Climate Control?
Do we avoid talking about ways in which we differ from each other?
In our own Society, without a designated Receiver of Memory, that responsibility -- with its inherent pain and exhilaration -- falls to each of us. Vital questions for us to consider are Which memories will we receive? Which will we give?
on March 3, 2000
In a community that is all the same lives Jonas, who discovers he is very different. Jonas is the main character in the book The Giver, my favorite book. I loved The Giver because the plot was very creative, the theme was magnificent, and the setting was vivid. I think you should read this book for many reasons. The theme of this book is clearly represented: freedom, the right to make your own choices, uniqueness, and individuality are worth dying for. In Jonas's community, a commitee selects one's job, war is unheard of, all people wear the same attire, and all are assigned spouses and families. When Jonas is given the special, wonder-filled occupation of becoming the Receiver of Memory, he finds that there is much more to life. Through his task of becoming the Receiver of Memory, he discovers the meaning of love, pain, frustration, color, and cold. That is when Jonas realizes how much more there really is. Life soon becomes overwhelmingly unbearable in his world of "sameness." He finds life isn't worth living without the qualities (often that we take for granted) he discovered. That is when Jonas goes on a dangerous journey to find a land that is different. The setting in this book made it quite a pleasure. Everything in the community was predictable and pre-planned. The housing units were all the same. There were designated spots for everything. The setting helped develop the plot and theme. The mysterious ending leaves one filled with curiousity and wonder. The book, The Giver, by Lois Lowry is guaranteed enjoyment, especially for someone who likes a good theme and plot that ties in with the setting. I loved the boook The Giver, and I truly believe that everybody should read it!
on March 3, 2012
I downloaded this book onto my reader. Could hardly put it down; loved it. Until I came to the end. What? It just left you hanging, not knowing what the imagery was, not knowing whether Jonas was "there" or not. I looked it up online to make sure I hadn't had a hiccup when I downloaded and only got half the book. Nope. This book could have been great if the end was the middle. Very disappointing and dissatisfying.
on August 6, 2011
I wanted to like this book much more than I actually did. I pushed through each chapter eager to learn more about Jonas, Giver, the community and some unanswered questions. Then all of a sudden, Giver is helping Jonas leave the community and the book ends with him and Gabriel in the snow....???? Did I miss something? And what's up with that red sled (from a memory) showing up at the top of the same hill ?.
I do like books that make you think, ponder and then later wonder, "what ever happened to ....or, I wonder why...." but I was just irritated that the Giver abruptly transitioned and then ended with the rest of the story never told and questions left unanswered. No continuation and no real sequel. One more chapter maybe? What happened to Jonas between the snow scene in the Giver and him showing up as Leader in the Messenger??? What about Gabe??? I cared about these people and then.....nothing.
I was left with strange feelings after finishing this book.....like, that feeling you get when you reach out to shake someones hand and they don't reciprocate, but rather leave you hanging. Or, being invited to dinner then ignored and expected to pick up the tab. This book had so much more potential. The author invited us to a great party and somewhere around 11:30, when things were getting good, she up and goes to bed.
This was a bittersweet book, (I'll admit it more sweet than bitter, ) that left a lingering residue that I wish a Receiver could take from me. The decisions the author made to move the characters from Sameness into Nothingness while I wasn't looking was most bothersome. Did she become bored with her own characters? Seems like we were all abandoned on this journey. I think it only proper to be asked for forgiveness for this rudeness.
on September 13, 2011
The Giver was a good book. The story captivated me, but something was missing in it. I was always hoping for something more to happen. The book in my opinion was way to short (188 pages). The ending was just horrible. I wanted so bad for the next book to be the continuing story, but it does not. For such a great story I am disappointed that I will not learn was happens to Jonas, the Giver, or the community...
I am not one for drawing my own conclusions...
on October 27, 2001
One of the few books that I can ever read past the first few chapters, Lois Lowry's "The Giver" has easily made its way into one of my favorite books. It's amazing how many only 170 some odd pages can work on so many levels- emotionally, socially, politically- and still pull it off. Lowry perfectly brings a coming-of-age boy (Jonas) forced to live in a seemingly "perfect" community into receiving the truth about the past, a past where pain existed, a past where feelings existed. Jonas' own naivete towards the world is the most interesting part of the book; watching him come to his own revelations about the very society he lives in, and the pure simplicity of his convictions: "But we SHOULD have choices!" Lowry leaves a lot of the book open for you to fill in the structure- she never really explains the whole concept of why people moved to "Sameness," and I really think that's for the best. I think it gives the message that maybe we really aren't made for perfection- because, perhaps, beauty comes in imperfection. A classic.
on September 8, 2012
Imagine that you are in your late seventies, and - although you had a rich career as an English teacher - you have only a superficial concept of what the Newbery Medal is, probably because most of your teaching experience has involved senior high school students.
Your son, himself a teacher of sixth graders, is discussing THE GIVER with you, sharing the enthusiasm of both him and his students for the novel. In order to introduce you to his world of children's literature, he orders a copy for you. Your daughter reinforces his sentiments, going so far as to lay claim that she and her family (all discriminating readers) thoroughly enjoyed the novel.
Amazon downloads your Kindle copy. You are intrigued by the countless memories of a lifetime carved in the face of the old bearded man on the cover. You begin to read.
Having recently joined an audio book club, you realize instantly that this is a book better appreciated through a visual absorption. Some common words are capitalized, for example, and this distinction would be lost in a narrator's presentation. Also, as language itself is extremely important in the book's community - the children always being corrected if they do not use the most accurate words possible - the typography (ellipses and italics come to mind) is crucial, and a case can be made for the value of visual as opposed to aural.
It's a slow start. The unidentified aircraft seems out of place in the December sky, and it quickly loses significance as part of the necessary exposition. As the characters, and environmental, sociological, cultural, and governmental functions are revealed, you wonder when the action begins. Too many bicycles neatly placed in their designated ports, too much repetition, so many meals eaten at precise times with no mention of what is being eaten, endless references to routine and sameness, and always community, community, community. A disturbing sense of ennui skitters across your mind. Why all the accolades for THE GIVER?
Continue imagining that you are committed to completing the book for the sake of respecting your children, although it does occur to you that father, children, and grandchildren are not on the same page ... or even in the same book. On and on it trudges. No chapter titles - just a red 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ...
Seven, or the end of seven to be more word explicit, is where the action begins. The author suddenly jolts you into the so-called "rising action." Finally it has begun, and - in spite of your age - you are pulled into the world of children's literature and a darned good story about an age of dystopia.
You run a literary marathon and finish the rest of the book without stopping. Your son said it would be like this, and it's nice that you continue to respect his intelligence, but you're not too certain of the reliability of your own. You really didn't give Lois Lowry or her book or her talent a chance. To be fair, you should have reread the first few chapters before continuing.
But something's not right. You liked the book, and were caught up in the terrible truths of the community, and were right there with Jonas and little Gabe through the final chapters. Yet a certain satisfaction is missing. You almost feel like saying, "So? It was good, but I've read better books."
Imagine then the memory of a bruised ego. You're a retired teacher, for crying out loud ... sort of a Giver yourself. To save what you can of self-respect and stave off complete humiliation (your son said, "Can't wait to talk about it!"), you do a computer search, checking out Wikipedia and a few good book review sites. And you make sure that your paucity of the Newbery Award is rectified. You even reread the opening chapters, which, of course, at this point changes your entire perception of the novel.
THE GIVER deserves the Newbery, and probably more, if for no other reason than the claim that its underlying theme - the giving and receiving of love- is the key to finding true happiness in this life. Even though the book burners have managed to establish this book as inappropriate for young readers (according to the American Library Association's list of the most "challenged" books of the 1990s), THE GIVER continues to remain on countless other lists - those of middle school suggested reading titles. The book is taught even in higher level grades.
Maybe it's good to stay in your own community and be happy in your own ignorance... sometimes.
But just imagine if ...
on November 6, 2013
I purchased the audio version of The Giver last year so one of my students whose comprehension is excellent but decoding skills are still emergent could read the book. He enjoyed listening to it, so I decided to use it with my seventh grade class. The man who reads the story has a pretentious way of talking that the students objected to. That would have been tolerable, but there were two other glaring problems with the audio version of the book:
1. There is music that plays randomly throughout the story. This was distracting and detracted from the story. I understand using music to signal the end of a CD (I am listening to an audiobook that does just that), but this music was in the middle of chapters. It played behind a few very important scenes, scenes that were somber and serious. Uplifting, new age music with somber and serious scenes? Not for me. More problematic was how distracting it was for the students, who were asking why there was music playing rather than listening to the story.
2. The narrator seemed to think Jonas was a whiny, petulant, snivelly boy. In my multiple readings of the book, I found Jonas thoughtful, patient, clever, and calm. He was not a whiner; he was not a complainer; he was not petulant. At the end of the book, The Giver reveals a secret to Jonas that upsets him greatly. I had to turn off the audio version because the way in which the narrator read Jonas' part was absolutely ridiculous and not how the book even says. Jonas is supposed to be sarcastic...the narrator made him whine. Jonas is supposed to be passionately caring...the narrator made him whine.
Again, this review is for the AUDIO version only. The book itself is awesome. I love it. I am angry about the movie they're making because it's not going to represent the book. I am similarly angry about this audiobook because it doesn't represent Jonas in a way I feel he -- and we, the readers -- deserve.
on July 22, 2002
This book,as distrubing as it was, was an excellent sci-fi book that, though odd, makes us all see that there is not, on the Earth we know, a place where everything is perfect as we can not know true happines or pleasure without first expiriancing pain and suffering. Jonas makes me think more, though this is a reach, more about the freedom of choice, for in the Community, there is none. The book striked as a powerful reminder that there is not a better world than that the one we live in, for there would be no happieness if it were the same as the Community, and no feelings. Without feelings, we are not human, and the people in this book scared me that some day there really may be a place that comes around here or in some other life where there are no feelings, color, or, most importantly, love.
I also recommend, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and The Price of Immortality