Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Giver, or Another Foray Into Newbery Land

Published:  January 24th, 2006 (First published 1993)
The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1)
By: Lois Lowry
ISBN-13:  9780385732550
Jonas' world is perfect.  Everything is under control.  There is no war or fear or pain.  There are no choices.  Every person is assigned a role in the Community.  When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver.  The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life.  Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth.  There is no turning back.
     In the Community where Jonas lives, everyone has a routine.  Jobs, spouses and children are selected by qualified officials.  Emotions are discusses and analyzed, colors are non-existent and pills are taken to halt the "Stirrings" from taking hold.  Everything is controlled, peaceful, uniform and all people are treated the same.  When you become of a certain age you join the House of Old and are released as a "reward."  Jonas thinks that his society is the perfect place to live.  Then he goes through the ceremony of the twelves to get his life assignment.  Jonas is given an unusual task that he has never heard of before.  He's apprenticed to a man called The Giver and becomes The Receiver.  He is to take on all of the memories, emotions and experiences of what life used to be like, without total control.  Jonas begins to question the way the Community is run and his place in it's mindless conformity.  When Gabriel, an underdeveloped infant that has been staying with Jonas' family, is at risk due to the Community's rules, it's up to Jonas to make a decision.  Will he follow the community or give in to the lessons he's learned from the things he's taken from The Giver?
     I have read this book at least six or seven times, the first being around 2001 or 2002, when my sixth or seventh grade English teacher assigned it to my class.  I remember being shocked by the ideas and terrifying realities presented in this book.  A place that is controlled by the government, doesn't allow for any individuality, and has no romance or family bonding - a place with no color or emotion AT ALL!!!  It blew my pre-teen mind to imagine such a horrifying thing.  I definitely identified with Jonas, questioning the world around himself and trying to make life-changing decisions (mostly between action and in-action).  In light of the movie being released next month, I decided to re-read it again and see how well it held up after a decade of being in my thoughts.
     This novel is definitely more one of introspection than action.  The climax near the end of the story when Jonas *SPOILER* takes baby Gabriel and leaves *END SPOILER* is definitely the most actiony part of this book.  The majority of this book is Jonas' journey from conformity and belonging, to being on the outside of the Community and becoming isolated when his reality shifts.  By gaining the things that everyone else he knows have lost (color, emotion, individualistic though, etc.), Jonas becomes an unlikely rebel.  "Sameness" is a concept he no longer embraces and finds to be pretty horrifying.  Probably the most conflict in this book is caused by the concept of "release" for people who don't (or can't) conform for some reason, or are just too old to be of use to society.  This is what really causes Jonas to take action.  It really makes you wonder just what it would take to push our own world over the edge, into a false utopia.  A chilling, but ultimately hopeful portrayal of a world ruled by the loss of everything real.  I highly recommend this book (it won a Newbery Award for a reason!) as an introduction to the loosely defined "dystopian" genre.  It definitely makes you think.
VERDICT:  5/5 Stars
**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

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