The Giver

by Lois Lowry


Lois Lowry's The Giver

Children's book review by Sarah Dempsey.

Ages 12-15

I would suggest this novel for a child interested in futuristic dramas. This book would also be a good choice for discussions on individuality, freedom of speech, and humanitarianism.


How Can You Be an Individual in a World of Sameness?

Thirteen… fourteen… Jonas began to get nervous. No, that wasn’t the right word. He was growing anxious as he watched the other Elevens rise to be assigned. Seventeen… eighteen…twenty… He had been skipped. Had there been a mistake? That was impossible, there were never mistakes made in the Ceremony of Twelve. Something was different and somehow Jonas caused it. It wasn’t until the last Eleven had been assigned that the Chief Elder spoke to Jonas. He had been selected to become the next Receiver and set apart from the rest of the community. Jonas had been chosen to be unique; an individual in a world of Sameness.

I first read The Giver by Lois Lowry as a young child and was awed by the powerful simplicity of a rigid world of rules.

Everything in my haphazard childhood from our dog, Sadie, to my book collection, to our family of five, rebelled against this “community” Lowry created. I could not fathom life where my mother did not cook, but every meal was delivered by government officials to the doorstep.

My family would not even be my family, but unrelated strangers assigned to me who had applied to be parents. I would never have been allowed to be a middle child, for in The Giver, family units are allowed only two children. Life in the community would be planned for me, no choices, no colors and no love. All the while, I would be blissfully unaware; unaware, unless the Giver chose me to receive.

Jonas was chosen, and the veil was lifted from his eyes.

The story of Lois Lowry’s The Giver is about a young man waking from a dream only to find himself trapped within a nightmare. Rereading this book as an adult I was just as captivated by the story as I had been as a child. The painful realizations that Jonas goes through as he realizes the choices that society had made generations before his birth and the joys it cost him and his family moved me deeply as he struggled with decisions that he alone had to make.

The complex relationship development not only between Jonas and the Giver, but also with his friends and his parents reflect the true quality of the novel.

Good writing has good character building, pure and simple. Jonas goes from a blind-trust relationship with his father to one of almost contempt as he discovers truths behind his father’s job and that job's role in the “release” of others. Two relationships strengthen as all others weaken and break. It’s this change of focus in Lowry’s hero that is most compelling to me as a reader.

Can you imagine? Your entire life had been decided in detail, you had been completely secure in your beliefs that you were one with the community, you were safe, and with a harsh reality you suddenly see the dark corners of the world that was once, in your mind, perfect. The only comfort for your pain is its very source, the Giver.

Would the cost of order be worth a world without chaos? How important is it to be like everyone else? The Giver depicts an existence without paintings, opinions, or love.

The communities have given up birds, sunshine, music, and countless other joys for fear of losing the Sameness. This story will have readers pondering on what it means to be human, what it means to be family, and what it means to truly live. To this day, The Giver, remains an excellent, thought–provoking, example of humanitarian literature.

Webmaster's note: Did you know there are more books in The Giver series? Read our review of Gathering Blue.

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