Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Giver Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Series: Giver Quartet Book One
Pages: 179

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The Giver is the children’s book that really isn’t a children’s book.  The story has a lot of dark imagery, and its take on a futuristic dystopian society will not only be darker for children, but it will (and should for that matter) be dark to adults.  That’s not to say that The Giver isn’t inappropriate, but rather it is a story that deals with a lot of adult issues.

The novel explores a society that acts like a utopia but really is more of a dystopia.  Thematically, The Giver explores the importance of being an individual in society, and it explores the importance of pain and suffering and its relationship to pleasure and happiness.  The exploration of these themes are what give the story its dark tone.

Despite the bleariness, the book is filled with many great philosophical life lessons, and excellent characters that create a number of powerful and moving moments.  The Giver is one of the great books of children’s science fiction, and not only should children read this book, but adults could benefit from reading it too.

The Giver primarily focuses on a young eleven year old boy named Jonas, and the society he lives in which is called the Community.  The Community is a place where pain, suffering, sadness, and fear do not exist.  All of these before mentioned ideas have been removed from the society and replaced with a lifestyle/philosophy that has been accepted by the Community called Sameness.
In order to prevent the Community from returning to a time where pain and suffering exist, all of the previous memories of the time before Sameness took over the Community, are given to a man whose job is titled, Receiver of Memory.

In this society, at the age of twelve a special ceremony takes place called the Ceremony of Twelve. During this ceremony all the newly turned twelve year old children are assigned their careers, which is what they will be training towards/working at for the rest of their lives.  Jonas, who recently turned twelve, is assigned the job Receiver of Memory.  Shortly after Jonas begins meeting with the Receiver of Memory, who begins Jonas’ training and asks to be called the Giver.  Jonas begins to learn about the truth of suffering and pleasure from the Giver, and his stories begin to change Jonas’ life forever.

Why do we suffer?  Why is their pain?  These are some of the questions a lot of people ask themselves everyday in their lives.  The Giver tackles these questions in the form of a children’s book.  Since pain and suffering are the focal thematic points of this book, it creates a very dark story. Add in the fact that this book is geared towards children, which many people view as being innocent to these ideas, and the book receives an extra added dose of darkness.

The Community, when it’s first described in the book, sounds exactly like the type of place most people would want to live.  In fact it seems perfect, but as the story unfolds, the book begins to reveal the true cost of removing suffering from people’s lives.  The Giver begins to examine what the differences between dystopian and utopian societies are.

Pleasure cannot exist without suffering, and hence denying suffering and pain to people also denies pleasure and freedom to people as well.  The Giver likes to pose the question: would you like to live in a blissful world where there is no suffering, but also no pleasure; or would you like to live in a world where you can experience the ups and downs of living?

The struggle with conflicting ideas of suffering and pleasure is largely presented through conversations between the Giver and Jonas.  These conversations are truly some of the most powerfully written scenes in the book, and for that matter any children’s book.  They explore the beauty of life, and what living is really all about.  These scenes provide moments of reflection for readers to explore the beauty of life, in the context of the book and in their own lives.

The only blemish in The Giver is the ending.  The book doesn’t provide a terrible ending, but it just doesn’t live up to the superbly written conversations between the Giver and Jonas.  After those conversations I was expecting to get more out of the ending, but I didn’t, and that is really the only problem with the book.   Regardless, The Giver is still one of the greatest books ever written for children, and it’s dark themes and relevance to our world’s issues, will be appreciated by people of all ages.

Score: 9.8

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