The Giver

By Lois Lowry; Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993; pp. 180

Plot: The Giver is an amazing tale about a futuristic dystopia where order, sameness, security, and acceptance are revered. The community’s collective memory has been so thoroughly scrubbed of unpleasantness that no unhappy memories exist in the consciousness … but then little else—love, family, a past–exists. Life in the community is planned from conception by birth mothers to release (euthanasia), with nothing in between left to chance or randomness. The elders ensure this and approve all aspects of communal life, including occupation, spouse, and the awarding of children to deserving couples, who apparently take medication to suppress fertility and sexual desires. When Jonas and the other Twelves receive their assignments (occupation), he learns that he is to become The Receiver, a respected, if secretive, assignment that a decade earlier went terribly wrong when the young receiver-in-training asked to be released (death by lethal injection). The residents seem content, except one, The Giver, who holds all of the community’s and mankind’s collective memories. He suffers under the loneliness, weight, and pain of these memories, like an emotional scapegoat. Now, before he dies (is released) he must transfer these memories to Jonas, who has become attached to a young child. How will this assignment change Jonas and the community? More importantly, can Jonas be trusted with this assignment.

Genre: Fiction

Reading Level: Ages 12 and older

Review: Dystopia, this way! This is an awesome tale. On the surface it is a simple and chilling tale about a perfect community—no crime, war, or want—but looks are deceiving. Order is not free, and in this community, the cost is collective amnesia and the forfeiting of all personal choice and emotion. Most notably love. This book is downright creepy, a bit like walking down a staircase into a dark, dusty basement, where something terrible will be revealed or a crime will be committed. The story is a thought-provoking philosophical examination of group versus individual rights, collective good versus individual choice, collective thought versus experience, and the role of memories and history.

Awards: Newbery Medal

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