The Giver by Lois Lowry
Review by Adrien Scott & Travis Johnson
Adrien Scott: Even if you had to read this Newbery Winner for school, it’s definitely worth a reread. Jonas lives in what appears to be a Utopian society, but it becomes clear early on that it is in fact a very controlling society where jobs and even families are determined by a group of elders. The story starts when Jonas is given a very special job by the elders, and follows what happens after Jonas makes certain decisions.
Though targeted for a younger audience, the message of the story will appeal to readers of all ages.
Travis Johnson: Published in 1993 and written by Lois Lowry, The Giver could be considered a direct ancestor of modern dystopian young adult fiction. It preceded the original Hunger Games novel by fifteen years, which offers a useful starting point for comparison. While both involve young adult protaganists’ growing awareness of, and rebellion against, the society around them, The Giver‘s treatment is much more fable-like and sketchy.
Seeming logical inconsistencies build up in the description of the world without the author taking time to address them (for example, the “magical” presence of telepathy is unremarked upon, in the context of a relatively lengthy discussion of genetic engineering). The novel as a whole has a more “innocent” tone to it than The Hunger Games, encompassing both the world, its characters, and the writing style. There is no romantic subplot to keep us hooked, as in The Hunger Games. The hero is not forced to fight to the death for their survival.
All in all, though we suspect the death penalty may be being surreptitiously applied for minor offenses, the world seems, and remains throughout the novel, amazingly harmonious. It could be easily argued that there’s little reason to upset the apple cart in a world that seems to have so thoroughly conquered many of the problems that beset the modern world, whether they be social, economic, environmental, etc. But while The Hunger Games asks what normal people would do in extraordinary circumstances, The Giver takes a different approach and asks us what would people do in a world where “normal people” no longer exist? Despite its flaws, The Giver is a very thought-provoking quick read.
This is the first book in a quartet, but it reads beautifully as a stand alone. It is followed by Gathering Blue, Messenger & Son. A film adaptation of The Giver was produced in 2014 to mixed reviews.
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About the reviewer: Adrien has been a reference librarian at TPL for just over a year. When she is not providing reference answers, she enjoys to garden and is usually drinking copious amounts of tea.