I know it’s shocking to some that I’ve only just read The Giver. This book won the Newbery Award in 1994, and here I am reading it twenty years later. I don’t know why I waited so long to read this book (especially since my mom gave me an autographed copy a couple of years ago), but I do know what spurred me to read it now…the movie. In case you weren’t aware, a movie adaptation of The Giver is due to be released this August, and with names like Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges attached to the film, I know I’ll have to see that move…but that means becoming familiar with the book first.
I knew going in that The Giver was considered one of the first examples of YA dystopian lit, and I was aware that the book had received loads of challenges over the years. (You’d think that would have made me pick up the book much faster.) I guess this weekend, I was in the mood for something like this, so I finally delved into this seemingly idyllic world created by Lois Lowry. As we’ve all learned, though, perfection has a price, and things aren’t always as ideal as they seem once a person discovers what’s being hidden from them…
Imagine a life free from choice. Everything is decided for you: what you’ll study, what you’ll do with your free time, what you’ll eat, who your parents are, your future career. Everything. This is the only world that Jonas has ever known. This is a world free from pain, war, poverty, and suffering. Every day is the same, there are rules governing everything, and everyone knows their place in the community.
Very soon, Jonas will be assured of his place. Like every other child before him, when Jonas turns twelve, he receives his Assignment. This Assignment is Jonas’ career path, chosen by the Elders who have been watching over him since birth. Jonas is unsure of what his Assignment will be, but nothing could have prepared him for the decision that is made. He is to be the next Receiver, the only person in the community to hold all of the memories of the past. And his training with the Giver–the man Jonas will eventually replace–will begin immediately.
Jonas is nervous about his training, but he soon forms a bond with the Giver. Yes, there are moments of intense pain in his training–as is expected when painful memories are transferred from one person to another–but Jonas also experiences joy. He sees colors for the first time. He feels the warmth of sunshine and the tickle of snowflakes on his skin, things that have been removed from society in favor of sameness and control.
As his training intensifies and Jonas learns more about the past–and the present–Jonas begins to question the societal bounds that define his community. He goes to the Giver with his questions, and Jonas learns that he is not the only one with doubts…or the belief that things could one day be different. But what can be done when only two people, Jonas and the Giver, know the truth of the world? Could drastic actions lead to change? Jonas will soon answer those questions for himself…
I’m sure the recap above in no way adequately captures The Giver. This is a powerful book that has been discussed for years, and, although I’m late to the party, I wanted to express what I got from this book and how it made me feel.
I think it’s all-too-easy to see the community in this world come to fruition. All you have to do is drive around a bit, find a neighborhood with a bunch of beige McMansions, and you can see that “sameness” is kind of glorified. Look around. Most people want to be like those around them. Being different, in many cases, is seen as bad, and those of us (yes, us) who don’t fit into a neat little mold are ostracized.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I have high hopes that the movie adaptation will live up to my expectations. (With Jeff Bridges playing the part of the Giver, we’re already off to a good start!) Check out IMDB for more information on the movie and its exceptional cast.
There are three more novels loosely tied to The Giver: A Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. I don’t know much about these books, but I plan to learn more soon. Hopefully, it won’t take me quite so long to get around to reading these!