The Giver

The Giver.  By Lois Lowry. Houghton Mifflin, 1993. 180 pages. $17

Plot: Jonas’ world is seemingly perfect.  There’s no hunger, prejudice, or poverty.  Everybody knows what is and is not allowed, what s/he is responsible for, and what happens when the rules are not obeyed.  Even politeness is codified.  In a society carefully constructed and maintained, twelve-year-old Jonas, dutiful and obedient, is assigned to be the community’s “Receiver of Memories.”  All the so-called “twelves” are given their career assignments in a celebratory ceremony.  Jonas’ position is considered the most honored in the community, and he is to replace an old man who will train him for the job.  As Jonas starts receiving memories he begins to have thoughts he has never had before.  He starts to question his outwardly ideal society and finds out there is more below the surface than he has seen or even considered before.  Is his world utopian?  Dystopian?

Review: Fascinating and frightening, Jonas’ world is cause for thoughtful reflection.  Lowry’s novel raises questions about what it means to be a society and what qualities make a society function.  The story is engaging and interesting.  Lowry’s writing is riveting and though-provoking, allowing the reader to question Jonas’ world along with him.  The Giver contains some events whose plausibility is questionable, but, even so, would make a great choice for a book club or class discussion.

Genre(s): Fantasy, Science Fiction

Reading/Interest Level: 8-12 years

Selected Awards: 1994 Newberry Medal, 1996 William Allen White Children’s Book Award, ALA “Best Book for Young Adults, ALA Notable Children’s Book, ALA Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000, Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Book, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

ISBN: 978-0-395-64566-6

Subjects: utopia, careers, society, memories, knowledge, freedom, choice

Main Characters

Jonas: eleven to twelve-year-old main character who is given the honorable career of the community’s “Receiver of Memories,” obedient follower of his society’s many rules until he starts to question some of the community’s accepted methods of doing things

Lily: Jonas’ seven to eight-year-old sister

Jonas’ father: works as a “Nurturer,” a caretaker of new children, is particularly concerned with the development of a “one” named Gabriel, helps Jonas follow society’s rules

Jonas’ mother: works as a Judge, helps Jonas follow society’s rules

Gabriel: a baby in the care of Jonas’ father who eventually comes to live with Jonas’ family, in the hopes that his growth and development, which are slower than expected, will improve

Asher: Jonas’ best friend who isn’t always successful at following the rules and who enjoys fun

Fiona: friend of Jonas and the object of Jonas’ newly recognized “stirrings” of attraction

The Giver: the elderly man currently holding the position to which Jonas has been assigned, holds the societies’ memories, so individuals of the community do not have to experience them.

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