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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 April 6, 2015
I am in love with this book! I am sure that almost everyone has already read it, but I just now got around to it. It is such an awesome story that says so much without being too preachy.

The Giver is a well-written, cautionary tale about a place where rules and sameness are valued above really living. When Jonas comes to realize that life should be full of colors, wonders and love, how can he continue to live in a place where life is always regulated and individuals have no real value?

Lois Lowry does an exceptional job in painting the black and white existence lived by Jonas, his family and friends, everyone. Jonas finally begins to realize that there is a world filled with color, individuality and beauty. He develops emotions and understands that each life is meant to be valued. He learns what it feels like to love.

The Giver is a reminder that a life of value, a life well-lived, is one filled with the good, the bad, and everything in between. Love means caring for someone else more than you care about yourself.
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on May 13, 2014
The Giver by Lois Lowry really gave me pause for thought. It is such a popular book, and has come highly recommended by many people. I’m not very familiar with young adult reads, besides reading The Hunger Games (simply to see what all the fuss was about).

Lowry’s world building is second to none. Her discussion of the repression of memory, and its influence on society is very interesting, and although the style is very sparse, there is room for imagination of a place where people are controlled by announcements made through a speaker. Memory is the living history of people, and by denying those who live in the community a history, there is nothing to compare actions to.

I would recommend this book to teenagers and my students without a second thought, but at the same time I do not think this book is flawless. I struggled to connect with any of the characters in the book, and the narrative was so one dimensional it at times became trying. There was little exploration of secondary characters – there was so much opportunity to create real and tangible characters in Jonas’ parents and friends, but it is missed. Or at least, to me I didn’t think the characters were excellent.
There is also the issue of the ending. It seems to be no ending, rather, the author lets the reader decide if Jonas makes it or not. I prefer things to be concrete, but that is simply my own preference.
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on April 29, 2016
I had some time off work recently for a knee surgery, this quartet filled my time perfectly. I grew up reading The Giver, and have probably read it 20+ times in the past 10 or so years. It is my favorite book. I knew that Lois Lowry had other books published, but Gathering Blue and The Messenger, to my understanding, were never a continuation of The Giver; so I never read them. No spoilers here, but Gathering Blue introduces new characters, The Messenger is tied into the first two books, and Son brings stories from many characters together. I can't wait to read this quartet again!
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on October 3, 2016
I purchased the book The Giver by Lois Lowry for my son. My son is in the eighth grade and this book is a requirement. The book came in paperback form and was of really good condition when it arrived. After he started to read the book it did not seem to take him very long to get through the book. He said for the most part that this book was an easy read for him. I was worried about that part since he is Dyslectic and sometimes books are hard to read. He said he felt that is easy to understand and easy to follow along. I love the fact that he did not struggle with this book. Overall, I feel that this book is a good book, seems to be an easy read, and is as described.
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on July 19, 2014
What an awesome and thought-provoking book. This book really makes you think about the language that you use and if you're using it because it's the normal verbiage that others use or if you're using it because it's the proper language. The author of the book called it "precision of language". This book made me look at the way we use the word love, completely different. Now I understand why some people just don't get it because we use the word love in regards to the emotion that we feel but not necessarily the textbook definition of the word. This book is so short but will make you question so many things.
While reading this book I asked some of my friends would you want to live in a world where life is orderly, predictable and painless? No one really had an answer and I don't think I have an answer either because I realize that if you live in a world like that you have to give up so many freedoms just like they did in the book....nothing is really left for you to decide because its decided for you.
Overall this was great book however I wasn't too fond of the ending. It was brilliant on the authors part to leave you to determine what you think happens in the end but as the reader it is frustrating because sometimes you want to read and know what happened to the characters without having to speculate.
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on February 18, 2015
I saw the movie first and liked it very much while realizing that my enjoyment was in conflict with most critics' lack of appreciation for it. I decide to read the original novel to see if the film was a faithful to the book and was pleased to see that it was. I fully realize that for some time the book has been used in schools for kids in the intermediate level and I think that is a good thing. First of all, it challenges the concept that the state knows better than we do what is best for us and that its attempts to regulate our lives, however well intentioned, too often reduce our humanity. I suspect part of the critics' distaste for it results from that very challenge. In a society that increasingly finds getting rid of the less than perfect children or releasing adults from all pain a positive thing, the notion that our children might be reading something that questions those practices is disturbing. I recommend it highly to those people who want their children to question things.
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on November 9, 2017
I just wanted to comment on how “Gathering Blue” was my favorite of the four. Many people have been bored to tears by it, apparently, but to an embroiderer such as myself, I adore it.
Ooh, and there’s a map in this boxed set! I hate when authors go to different locations, then weave them all together and you have to alter the maps you’ve carefully drawn in your mind. Love a good map.
Also, the books, while connected and deeply entwined with one another, can also be read as standalone novels. Though they are better together.
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on August 24, 2014
This would make an excellent book for a group discussion. First published in 1993, The Giver is similar in theme to The Hunger Games trilogy. In this book, adults allow the creation of a group of societies where everything is "black and white." Daily medication is taken to avoid remembering the past. Everyone is "perfect," and a method to be rid of those born into the society who are not perfect is developed. There is no war, crime, or any other elements that can make life painful, but this also means that they will live in a society that is colorless, vacant of nature, without the extras not necessary to survive (i.e., television, telephones, travel outside their society). They also cannot express their feelings (love, hate, difference of opinion, etc.) One of the young people who has reached "adulthood" is selected to "see" the past and determines that the life he and him family are living is devoid of what seems most important to him -- the ability to love. The chase is on when he decides to escape with a child that has been selected for elimination. This is a short 180+ page read. The Giver movie was released in late August 2014.
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on June 13, 2015
The community in which Jonas lives is so meticulously ordered and based on the notion of "sameness" that from birth, it's citizens' entire destinies are decided by an elite group of elders. Food, shelter, careers, spouses and families, etc. are all chosen for them leaving almost no room whatsoever for free will. Even their emotions are mitigated by consuming a daily pill after puberty so that sexual desires and the like are never experienced. Jonas is assigned the job of "receiver" and this means that after becoming a "twelve", as all young people do, he is apprenticed to a particular position in the community, his position being receiver of memories. In this distant future, Lois Lowry says that all memories of history and general knowledge of the world were forgathered and kept by one man. How this happened or works is never satisfactorily explained. This man assumes the title of "giver" once Jonas' training begins and again, somehow, transfers his memories to Jonas. What happens thereafter throws Jonas into a whirlwind of subjectivity, freedom, and knowledge that makes this book difficult to put down.
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