Series: The Giver Quartet #1
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The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger,and Son.REVIEW
I first read The Giver in my 7th grade English class. I can't remember the teacher's name - only that I didn't like her much and I don't think she liked me. I didn't like the class as a whole either. Actually, I never much liked any of my English classes or teachers. This is difficult even for me to believe (it must be blasphemy) since I am, and almost always have been (there was this period during high school...), the book nerd I am today. I liked my English Tech class in 11th grade, where we used computers to do more cool book-related things rather than sitting at a desk and handing in traditional essays (I still have the portfolio/binder thingy they made us put together. Oh my God, I'm totally uploading those!) Anyway, I digress. The only thing I remember liking about my 7th grade English class was this book. It stayed with me for quite a while after I read it that first time.
In the years to come, I would re-read this book several times, forcing it on anyone who made the mistake of asking me for a book recommendation or asking what my favorite book was. If I can think of one reason why I loved it so much at the young age of twelve years old (Jonas's age. Coincidence?), it probably wouldn't be for the reasons I love it so much today. I probably loved it for exactly the same reasons that dystopian novels are all the rage these days (slowly fading, but still flooding the market). Seeing such a drastically different world was intriguing, it was fascinating.
Of course, I'm sure the class discussed all the hidden meanings and deeper reasons while we were reading it because obviously that's the point of English class, but I was twelve and definitely didn't care. Nowadays, these things are much more important to me. Okay, I lie. They're only a little bit more important to me. I usually just like a good story, but it's books like The Giver that make me think that end up staying with me for much longer than a smutty romance or fun mystery do (not that there aren't romance or mysteries that defy this logic - I'm just sayin').
I read Fahrenheit 451 earlier this year and in the copy I read was an Introduction by Neil Gaiman that goes into lengthy, but nevertheless enlightening, detail about dystopian novels. "...although [speculative fiction] doesn’t try to predict an actual future with all its messy confusion. Instead, [speculative fiction] takes an element of life today, something clear and obvious and normally something troubling, and asks what would happen if that thing, that one thing, became bigger, became all-pervasive, changed the way we thought and behaved." Gaiman explained.
He went on to say, “People think—wrongly—that speculative fiction is about predicting the future, but it isn't; or if it is, it tends to do a rotten job of it. Futures are huge things that come with many elements and a billion variables, and the human race has a habit of listening to predictions for what the future will bring and then doing something quite different.What speculative fiction is really good at is not the future but the present—taking an aspect of it that troubles or is dangerous, and extending and extrapolating that aspect into something that allows the people of that time to see what they are doing from a different angle and from a different place. It’s cautionary."
In other words, maybe we don't need to worry about our society somehow losing it's color and weather and losing all capacity for human emotion, but it's a way to look at, "if we continue on this road," with many aspects of the world today, such as individuality, especially, as it's being challenged across the globe. We may be an advanced society but you know as well as I do that this is a problem in homes between people as well as with the government and its citizens.
Maybe I'll stop rambling now. I could go on forever about the political, moral and social aspects this book touches on, but somehow I don't think you'd care all that much.I suppose you'd like to know about the actual book, not just the ramblings in my head.
Coming from the standpoint of someone who loved the book, I obviously think it is amazing. The world-building, while after a certain point doesn't go as in-depth as one may wish, is perfect for the story. We learn about all the little rules Community has and at first glance, it doesn't seem so bad. How many of us haven't thought, "if no one was hungry, no one hurt, no one was different, we'd all be happy"? Then we're reminded of what real life is like, which still makes the Community look pretty good (considering humans have an affinity for trying to blow each other up) but the Giver says in the story, “We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.” They achieved Sameness for the entire community, there was no pain or hunger or sadness, but there also wasn't true happiness, joy, colors, seasons, love, or freaking hills. Of course, now we know those are things we'd never give up in exchange for never going hungry, feeling sad, being hungry... or would we?
Whatever your standpoint is on the themes and messages of the book are, the book at it's core is amazing. The writing, while simple, is powerful. It is considered middle grade, so when I say simple, I mean it, but this never bothered me - not once. Jonas is a character that is easy to like, to identify with and empathize with, along with the Giver and some of the other minor characters. Even after all this time and this many re-reads, The Giver still manages to speak to me and turn me into an emotional mess like it's the first time.
RATING: ★★★★★ - Absolutely loved it!
The Giver is one of my favorite books of all time so it's a little hard for me not to gush, and hopefully I was able to give you more than just an "ohmigod I love this book" reason to pick it up and read it yourself. I'm reading the next book in the series, Gathering Blue, which if I remember correctly, I didn't love nearly as much as The Giver but I'm incredibly anxious to finally read Son which was released at the end of 2012. Fans of this book will understand how the ending of The Giver will give me the motivation to wade through two mediocre books to find out what happened next in Son.
Have you read The Giver? Is it something you picked up recently for the first time in anticipation of the movie (which I think is going to suck balls, but that topic is for another time, another blog post), or has it been a favorite since childhood like it was for me? I love discussing favorites! Let's talk books!