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Dystopian teen fiction is pretty hot right now, with blockbusters like "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent." But the grandaddy of them all was "The Giver."

And long before it became chic, Lois Lowry produced a hauntingly memorable quartet of stories set in a world where emotions are suppressed and people with gifts are imprisoned. The four books are loosely tied together -- the first and last most tightly -- and mingle fantasy and science fiction, with haunting prose and some very strong characters, as well as a message of compassion and acceptance.

In "The Giver," Jonas lives in a rigid, joyless community where people use emotion-deprivation pills and adhere to insanely strict rules -- they have no conflict, poverty or discrimination... but they also have no love, no fun, and no creativity. When Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memories, he is suddenly flooded with feelings and memories of both the good and the bad from humanity's distant past.

And as he comes to realize what his people have lost in their quest to be the same, Jonas begins yearning for the world he knows must exist outside the Community. But his quest becomes a more personal one when he discovers another price for the Community's existence: the "release" of babies that they don't deem good enough. The only one who can change the Community is Gabe.

"Gathering Blue" introduces us to Kira, a young girl born with a deformed leg in another community that leaves disabled or sickly people to die in the Field of Leaving. She is only kept alive because of her skill with embroidery and weaving, so she can make the Singer's robe. As she comes to realize the horrible flaws in her village's way of life, Kira must make an important decision -- stay and try to improve things, or leave for a place that would welcome her?

"Messenger" was somewhat controversial upon its release, since some fans of "The Giver" felt that it "ruined" the bleak ending they had imagined for the first book. In takes place in Village, a community made up of outcasts, misfits and disabled people, ruled by the kindly Leader. But the Village is surrounded by Forest, a terrifying and deadly forest that kills those who venture into it -- and though the awkward teen boy Matty has been able to go there, it is now growing darker and twisted. As the Village begins to close itself off from the outside world, Matty finds that he may be the only one who can save them all.

"Son" takes us back in time to Claire, a young woman whose entire purpose is to produce babies for the Community -- and her child is the sickly baby boy known as Gabe, who vanishes with Jonas into the great unknown. Her desperation to find her son inspires her on a years-long quest to find him -- and a Faustian pact with a terrible figure who only wants suffering.

Pretty much all young-adult dystopian fiction owes a debt to the Giver Quartet -- it has young people discovering the cruelty and callousness of their societies, and finding different ways to rebel. But Lowry doesn't shy away from asking the serious questions in her story, such as lack of respect for life (if it's inconvenient or doesn't fit in), kindness, compassion, and the good AND bad roots of what it means to truly live.

Lowry's writing is simple but poetic, winding through with some quietly eloquent language ("Now, on this shattered morning, he felt nothing but knots and snarls under his fingertips"). And she fills the stories not with bombast and battle, but with tragedy and quiet triumph -- and while the story is in a future world fragmented into multiple civilizations, there's a hint of the fantastical as well. Think special powers, the mysterious Trademaster, and whatnot.

And she creates a varied collection of characters. All of them are tied together into a story that culminates in "Son," and they all have the theme of seeking to improve the cruel, callous worlds they were in -- Jonas by leaving the Community to the memories they are trying to avoid, Kira by staying and working, and Matty through self-sacrifice. Claire is the odd duck out, a young woman adrift in the world, desperate to find her baby.

"The Giver Quartet" is a haunting memorable collection of novels, some of which inspired the current widespread dystopian novels. Rich, haunting and well-written.
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on August 17, 2014
Coming into this, I had very high expectations for this book. The medals and awards, the movie adaptation, the praise- I thought how could this not be mind blowing? Turns out, it's very possible. The first red flag was when I found out the book was only 180 pages, which, to me, is not long enough to develop a story, usually. I discarded this. So then I started my reading and in the beginning thought it was so great. The premise- a futuristic, corrupt society seemingly perfect to all its inhabitants -was great and unique for 1993. The characters were so stupid and naive it was almost hilarious,but still very entertaining,so basically the only thing that got this 3 stars was the plot, and the desire to know more twists in the plot. I always felt like something new was going to come up, which kept me hooked. On to the negative, this mostly came in the end. The ending was so confusing!! Spoiler: he talks about some sled and Christmas lights as he's starting to get all weak with Gabe the baby in his arms. Does he live, does he die, apparently it's open to interpretation! In the end he sounds like a crazy person , talking about getting on a sled and lights and riding down a hill, memories the Giver gave him. I couldn't tell whether this was real or whether he was dying and imagining things. If he did live, they should have continued the story: where did he go, the story of Gabe growing up, etc. Back to the beginning - it needed more pages, more explanation. It did not answer a lot of questions I had-no closure. Also, I was hoping this would be continued in the other books in the series, but all the other books are based off completely different people, I hate it when an author does this, because you don't want to hear about some other character when you want to hear more about the first one, the one you're now attached to. Lastly, the characters were so stiff and annoying, sometimes it was entertaining but sometimes it was just annoying. The Giver was the least annoying and corrupt person there, and the plot was predictable sometimes. I don't get all the praise this book received, The Fault in our Stars was better and it didn't win such a big award. I just don't get it.
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on June 9, 2014
The premise of this book is that a group of elders essentially rule the lives of everyone. At what point do people say to themselves sure just completely rule my life. The people are essentially flat, and they lack extreme emotions. They eat what and when they are told to eat. They live in very controlled environments. They LITERALLY see their world in black and white. It is never explained how everything is controlled in this manner. Is it genetic manipulation? If so, they aren't good enough at genetic manipulation to get rid of red hair, which should be relatively simple if they are able to get rid of free will and emotions. (It isn't drugs like in Ira Levin's This Perfect Day.)

As you read through the grey landscape of this book, you will repeatedly ask yourself WHY. You will never get that answer.

The story centers on Jonas, who is to become a receiver of all the memories. The old receiver will become the giver of all the old memories. And you will be bonking your head on the wall trying to come up with these answers, why don't the citizens have their own memories of the past which would be passed down as stories? Then you find out that ten years ago the memories of a receiver were PASSED ALL the CITIZENS when they died without giving them away. How does that piece of magic work? We aren't told. And why doesn't Jonas recall receiving these memories that were so upsetting to ALL of the CITIZENS. He was like 7 or 8 years old and should have remembered.

The story is just given to us as this is the way it is, and the author manages to explain nothing.
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on January 30, 2016
My daughter loved this book so much she wanted me to read it so we could discuss it. It's definitely a thought-provoking book with echoes of 1984 and Animal Farm. The careful segregation of the ages reminded me of the modern evangelical church practice of segregating everyone in the church by life stage. The sterilization of society (literal and figurative) reminded me of the forced sterilization programs in China and in third world countries (enforced and promoted by those who "know better"). The sterile treatment of death by the community definitely hints at abortion and euthanasia. The rejection of the biological family is a trend that is occurring right now in our world (with advances in reproductive technology).

Lois Lowry presents a lot of heavy themes to mull over but she also leaves the reader with many questions. Lowry's prose is sparse and as in her other books I've read (Number the Stars), I get this feeling I'm walking through a world that's not fully fleshed out or colored in.
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on August 12, 2014
So much potential for a really great story, but the ending was confusing, disappointing. and went no where. I am left feeling that somehow the whole book didn't make it to my kindle. I "get" the message of the book but there are so many more worthier reads. Enders Game is a good one; it had a beginning, middle and ending. How about 1984 or Animal Farm. In the end this books just didn't have enough depth or mental challenge for me. Granted I'm in my 70's and not 12 so maybe that's the problem.
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on March 17, 2015
I read this book in elementary school and remembered liking it. I just completed reading it again today and realized I love it. The details I remembered from my 10-year-old pursuit were fuzzy. I remembered a couple of the given memories, some of the details of Jonas' selection, and a very short version of the ending. Now I remember it in all its brilliance.

Lois Lowry's version of an Utopian/Dystopian society is brilliantly simple in execution and yet complex in the realm of her thought process behind each and every element. It's amazing how simplifying a civilization can actually cause complex paradoxes and tricky snags to tiptoe around or just ignore. Sure it's fictional, but I believe that in a real life Utopia such as this would be shockingly similar. Nothing is ever perfect.

I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil the book; I just want to encourage everyone to read this novel. If you've read it before, read it again. It will cause you to self-examine your own life and the lives around you, wondering how you'd act in Jonas' situation and whether or not you'd be brave enough to follow in his footsteps. Written for children, this Newberry Award winning book intrigues adults as well and is a fantastic, quick read for anyone. Seriously. I read it in about three hours, and I'm not the fastest reader.
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on August 6, 2014
Jonas is a 12.. he lives in a very safe very predictable community. Everything is ... the same. while there is no war or famine or death, there also isn't color, joy, or love.Until the choosing ceremony every child hits the same milestones at the same time. Everyone is the same. At the age of 12 you have a Choosing ceremony where it is decided for you what your occupation will be, there is no choices in this community, from the clothes you were, to the food you eat, to who you marry and how many kids you have. Everything is chosen for you to have a safe and "happy" community. Jonas's world turns upside down when he is bestowed the "honor" of becoming the Receiver of all the memories. He will be burdened to receive all of the memories of the past from the Giver. Jonas will never see life the same way again.

Honestly a great book, and at the same time some key themes remind me of other great books and movies I love. I knew instantly what it meant to be "released" as a citizen in the novel, but it was so hard and literally tear jerking to see Jonas figure it out. I am intrigued to see this book plays out on the big screen. After watching the trailer I can already see some differences but I hope that they stay as true as possible to the book.

The Giver is an amazing book. I was apprehensive on reading it initially because I hate to admit that I DO judge a book by its cover, and this cover didn't give off the vibe of the type of books I normally read. I know The Giver has been out for some time now, so it was complete mis judging on my part that I did not read it sooner. I am so glad that I picked it up. I definitely feel that this may one day be though of as a classic.

Plot : Great. What seems to be a Utopian community until Jonas digs a little deeper and learns that there was once more to life.
Characters: Did not disappoint! Most of the novel is the interactions between the Giver and Jonas. Great characters!
Cover: Well like I said.. Not my cup of tea. This cover doesn't screem Ya Utopian book, if it had, I might have picked it up earlier.
Rating: 5 Stars !
If you like The Giver you will love :
Movies: Pleasentville !! This is on my top 5 movies list! Reminds me of the Giver because the T.V. show that these two kids get sucked into is literally black and white.. and very similar and safe. As characters in the movie start feeling real emotions and dealing with heavier issues their world slowly starts to turn to color. Very powerful.
Books: The Uglies Series, Matched and Delirium all are based in a safe and extremely controlled environment similar to the one in The Giver, and the main characters flee the confides of the community to escape those binds. City of Ember because of the choosing ceremony where your occupation is chosen for you.
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on July 30, 2014
The Giver is a thought-provoking book that I found it depressing in many ways. The author says one of the readers decided against suicide after reading it. While I condone that decision, I have a hard time understanding it. If the book represents our future, we are in deep trouble.

It is a very regimented society that kills outliers, babies who do not conform, children and adults who break 3 major rules, and the elderly for simply being old. It segregates babies from everyone, constructed families from childless adults (which category includes adults who had been selected for forming a family unit and whose charges have grown up), and the elderly (who, by the way are treated as infants and the author claims they enjoy being washed by young volunteers) from everyone. This has some serious implications for our society...from daycare, to families, to retirement communities.

The infants are raised by shifts of works until the baby conforms to adult sleep cycles, is potty trained and can walk. Then they are assigned to a "family" who was assigned to task of raising one or two young. The young who have difficulty in this process are eliminated. I wonder if this is a reflection on daycare. My 2-year-old grandson clearly exhibits the attempts of the daycare workers to make him conform to their standards. He uses daycare vocabulary that now his mother and father use. In and of itself it seems helpful, but in light of this book, it seems subversive. As someone said, give me one generation of babies, and I can change the world for good or evil.

The toddler, when he reaches certain milestones, graduates to physical discipline--a thin switch applied to the legs for every infraction.

Each year the children change uniforms, receive some privilege and added responsibilities in lock-step. At 12 they are assigned to their life's work. When I as in school there were many who believed this would be a good plan. I was appalled then; I am appalled now.

When the central character reveals a sexual dream, he is medicated to keep these sexual feelings in check.

There is much more that could be discussed, but I'm moving to the end. I'll leave you with the same question the book does, do the boy and the baby survive or is it all a mind game?

The boy realizes that he isn't loved-- enjoyed and celebrated maybe, but not loved. His life is devoid of love and hope. How could his story be encouraging enough to stop a suicide?
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on November 2, 2013
It's a great book if its purpose is to give a middle school English course several classes worth of talking points regarding utopias and dystopias. Otherwise, I was a little disappointed. There were several aspects of the Utopian society that warranted some further explanation. Additionally, there was a certain "magic" inherent in the people or the society that never received any more attention than that which was convenient for the plot line. I read this and two others in the series so I could join a book club with my students who were reading the final book of the quartet (of which The Giver is the first). I was surprised at just how many potentially pivotal questions were left unanswered and how many seemingly fascinating aspects of the world Lowry constructed were left wholly unexplored. That said, I would not say that this book is without merit. Three stars, for me, indicates a teen fiction that has a continuous flow, some page-turning suspense, doesn't patronize young readers, and challenges them to think beyond their current surroundings without relying entirely on the fantastic.
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on October 7, 2013
When I first read the summary for this novel, I thought it would be similar to George Orwell's 1984 or a piece of modern, post-apocalyptic science-fiction. The story had similar characteristics such as: a "Big-Brother" type government and a society jaded by post-traumatic-stress, but surprisingly the novel set itself apart from other books of this nature. I was pleasantly surprised with the suspense throughout the novel. As soon as I thought I could predict their next move, the characters took me by surprise. Jonas comes across as a happy, satisfied child who wants-for-nothing. Living with his father, mother and sister, Lily, they seem like a very normal family. As the story progresses you learn of his communities need for "sameness" and callousness. When he is presented with his job as "Receiver," he is honored that the elders chose him for such a highly-respected position. Although he doesn't know much about his assignment, Jonas is excited and eager to start his job. As the Giver starts to train him, the reader is on an emotional rollercoaster ride as they find Jonas' position being less of an honor and more of a burden. Every truth he encounters leads him to a lie about his seemingly perfect community. Every emotional forbiddance becomes more of a temptation. The safety of sameness becomes a danger! Besides the beginning of the book being a little slow, I would definitely suggest this as a must-read! I was in high school when this book was published. It is unfortunate that this wasn't on our required summer reading list!
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