Book Review: The Giver


The Giver
by Lois Lowry
225 pages
Dystopian Fiction
Published 1993

So, I know The Giver has been out for a long time, and I know they made a movie, but somehow I’d never read or watched it. But on the recommendation of a friend, I finally have. What a strange little book! It definitely belongs in the same realm as Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and The Handmaid’s Tale – which are among my favorite books – but the ending was tremendously unsatisfying. It’s the first book in a quartet, though, so I’m hoping the other three, which I have requested from the library, will tie up the loose ends. It definitely feels like it’s only the first installment of a story.

The dystopian society in this book has effectively banished most feelings. But to get rid of hate and war and prejudice, they also had to banish the memories and feelings of individuality and difference. With everyone and everything the same, they’re mostly incapable of feeling true love or happiness. So they all live in peace – but it’s a complacent, uncaring peace. It’s not peace because of love, it’s peace because of the absence of passionate feelings. Whether this is good or not, well, that’s up to the reader to decide for themselves. The actions of the main character, who aims to disrupt that peace, could be seen as good or bad.

I’m not actually sure how I feel about this book. I will probably have a better opinion once I read the next three – Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004), and Son (2012).

From the back cover:

“I have great honor,” The Giver said. “So will you. But you will find that that is not the same as power.”

Life in the community where Jonas lives is idyllic. Designated birthmothers produce newchildren, who are assigned to appropriate family units: one male, one female, to each. Citizens are assigned their partners and their jobs. No one thinks to ask questions. Everyone obeys. The community is a precisely choreographed world without conflict, inequality, divorce, unemployment, injustice….or choice. 

Everyone is the same.

Except Jonas.

At the Ceremony of Twelve, the community’s twelve-year-olds eagerly accept their predetermined Life Assignments. But Jonas is chosen for something special. He begins instruction in his life’s work with a mysterious old man known only as The Giver. Gradually Jonas learns that power lies in feelings. But when his own power is put to the test – when he must try to save someone he loves – he may not be ready. Is it too soon? Or too late?

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