December 26, 2012

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This has been a powerful book for me ever since I first read it in the sixth grade. Something resonated from then and I return to it over and over. In fact, I credit it with developing my love of dystopian fiction in general. And while this book has its flaws, it's so much a part of my love of books that I simply don't care.

Jonas is an eleven year old living in his community. He has an assigned family unit and the coming December marks his transition to a twelve year old. This is the year that his job assignment happen and he learns his role in the community. However, the unexpected happens when he is chosen to be the new Receiver for his community, a role that is only granted to one person and the previous Receiver is growing old. It isn't until his training though that Jonas learns what this job actually entails. He is the receiver of memory, good and bad, and the only holder of true feelings besides his mentor the Giver, in a world that has chosen sameness over choice and life.

Jonas is pretty compliant. He was designed to be that way from his birth to his training at home. But his experiences with the Giver make him grow and he slowly drifts away from obedience to wanting something better for a community that doesn't want the same thing. The Giver too is a wise but pitiable figure as he has all this knowledge and wisdom and can't really share it with anyone. He has to suffer alone. The other characters are two-dimensional, as they are supposed to be. They have so long been brainwashed and chemically controlled that they are arguably not true humans, but more like robots. And their reactions to each other are so superficial that it's painful to read.

The theme is definitely dystopian. So much so because Jonas does live in the perfect world. No war, no bullies, everyone is polite; but there is no true life. There is no art or music or all the wonderful things that we take for granted in this world. That the quest for perfection and easiness has a high price to pay, and people shouldn't get complacent. And the ending, without giving too much away I do want to comment on it. It gives you a choice, and it's interesting too what people think of the ending and why. I tend to choose the more tragic route. The only thing I could really want more from this book is detail about Jonah's society. There is so much about its past and its everyday workings that I would have loved to understand.

This is definitely a book that will make you think. It will always remain on my shelf and is one that I take with me on long travels. There's a plethora of feelings that come from reading it.

The Giver
Copyright 1993
180 pages

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