In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.
The Giver is set in a future society which is at first presented as a utopia and gradually appears more and more dystopic, so could therefore be considered anti-utopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. Jonas’ society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness”, a plan which has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of “Receiver of Memory,” the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. As Jonas receives the memories from his predecessor—the “Giver”—he discovers how shallow his community’s life has become.
Imagine you are living in a place where there is no hunger or pain. No crime or poverty. No pain or divorce. A place where everyone is always polite, always courteous, always respectful. A place where there is no such thing as unemployment or struggle of any kind, where everything runs smoothly, and everyone follows the rules.
Welcome to Jonas’ world.
Jonas’ world is where Sameness reigns. Where no one can see colors. Where they have felt neither the warmth of the sun, nor the cold of the snow. There have no weather, no animals. No music. No books. Nothing but a carefully regulated existence where love no longer is known. But no one misses these and countless other things, because they aren’t even aware they used to exist. The only person who does is the Receiver of Memory… a highly honored, if mysterious, person within the community. And Jonas has been selected to replace him.
As the successor, Jonas is trained by the previous Receiver of Memory, known to him only as The Giver. As The Giver slowly transfers to Jonas all the memories of the way it was before the Sameness, Jonas begins to learn and experience a multitude of things denied to everyone else within the community. Sometimes the memories are pleasant, such as when he first experiences what love feels like. Others, like memories of war and starvation, terrify him. But the more he learns, the more he becomes convinced that he must do something to change the Sameness, especially after finding out the horrible reality of what Being Released really means for a person, be they young or old. That is when Jonas, with the help of The Giver, comes up with a plan to change things once and for all.
This is the first book in a series of four. I’m not sure when I’ll get my hands on the rest of the series, but I’m very anxious to read them. Kudos to my son, for introducing me to yet another very engrossing book. I highly recommend it to anyone willing to give it a chance!
Author: Lois Lowry
Title: The Giver
Series: The Giver Quartet #1
Published: 4/26/1993 by Houghton Mifflin
Rating: ★★★★★ – BOOK WORTH READING
This review was originally published on Goodreads on May 7, 2012.