The Giver

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 3rd dystopian novel I’ve read this year and I’ve realized I don’t really like them. They are too drab and pessimistic for my tastes. I always have a hard time believing that people would really let things get so bad. Anyone else struggle with relating to dystopian novels?

That said, there is a lot to like in Lowry’s story. My favorite element is the philosophical discussion about being and the same. In philosophy we learn that human beings have a natural tendency towards sameness. For example, instead of looking at someone as a unique creature with identity we turn them into a slave, a woman, a Mormon whatever. This allows us to treat people in the same way and usually that means with less respect or kindness.

In the Giver you have an entire society who not only follows the tendency of sameness but embraces it as a better way to live. What results is a bland culture that eventually can’t even see colors when they surround them.

Another interesting theme is the precision of language. How language is controlled and freedom of expression is imitated but not really granted. Someone can’t express inside them because they have nothing to express and because the language is constantly being corrected and modified. It made me think of our politically correct culture where precise language is required to speak your opinion on an issue.

I also liked the concept of memory and how we all sometimes wish we could remove a memory and give it to someone else to store, but would this only make us miserable? What do our memories mean collectively to a functioning society. Interesting…

Some online have criticized the logical flaws of the world. For example, 50 children are born each year, 25 girls and boys. This means 17 birth mothers are required each year yet its a looked down upon, sad career.

But I’m okay with those kind of lapses where I would fault Lowery is the amount of talking between the Giver and Jonas dragged on too long. Also, when he finally leaves it seemed to happen too easily and without as much action as I’d expect from this type of book. I think kids might be a little bored with all the therapy sessions and want a little more peril and excitement.

One word of caution the scene of Jonas’ father ‘releasing the twin is pretty disturbing. I’d say this book is best for older children.

So, how does it relate to Matched, Enders Game, Hunger Games, and other dystopian novels (Brave New World, 1984 for adults)? I don’t know since I don’t really love any of them it is hard to say but I would put it further down the list because I think it drags and could use a little more action and excitement.

What are your favorite in this genre?  Do you like The Giver?  I read it years ago and liked it.  Made me think.

Oh, I also met and heard Lowry lecture a few months ago and she said The Giver was not written as a religious allegory.  She said if it touches you in that way it is fine but that was not her intent.  I could really feel her love for the characters and she said that is how she always gets started on a story is an interesting character that she wants to explore.

Have any of you read any of the sequels?  I’m intrigued enough to read more.

So this will be my 45th book this year!  How many have you all read? That is almost double what I read last year.  Happy reading!

One more thing- they are evidently finally making a movie of The Giver, which I’d be curious to see.  I wonder if there is enough action to entertain kids nowdays? There is a lot of talking and going over memories for most kids. It’s not like the Hunger Games which is full of action and suspense.  Hmmm…

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4 thoughts on “The Giver

  1. I LOVED this book as a youth. It was one of the books that really got me into reading. I am not as big of a fan as the sequels (though Son was an enjoyable read). For me, there has always been something magical about this book and the messages that it shares about individuality, community, and the necessity of hardships.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I would definitely recommend it to my kids. Makes you think which is always a good thing and it is certainly less violent than Hunger Games (good alternative suggestion for kids itching to read Hunger Games). It was neat to meet Lowry a few months ago and get a sense for her love for Jonas and Gabrielle. It was like she was talking about her own kids.
      I did think it dragged in sections which kept me from giving it a perfect score, but still for this type of book which isn’t my favorite I liked it.

  2. I really like the Giver, though I read it years ago. It seems like it is geared towards a slightly younger age group than all the current dystopian teenage books (although I think a wide range of ages can still read it and like it!). There are actually three more books in the series (the last, Son, just came out in October), but I haven’t read any of them.
    Usually I don’t like open endings, but I like the ending of the Giver.

    1. You’re probably right but there are some strong elements like the baby murders that might be challenging to young kids. From what I’ve heard the sequels are more like spinoffs where other characters from the land are developed, not just Jonas.
      After speaking with Lowry I’m curious to read all of her books. She seemed so interesting and heart-felt.
      Do you think kids today expect more action/adventure from a book?

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