Older than The Hunger Games and the Divergent series, Lois Lowry’s The Giver (Quartet) is a beautiful masterpiece of emotion and yearning set in a post-apocalyptic world.
This is the story of twelve year old Jonas who lives in a dystopian future where there is no war, pain, fear – and no color or emotion. Jonas’s rebels against his job as holder of memories of both the joy – and the pain – of life. This book was made into a movie in 2014 and while it did not draw the numbers that Divergent did, it got me interested enough to make me buy the book and read it.
“The Giver” is one of the most provocative and thoughtful books that has an intriguing story line as well. Right from the first sentences, readers meet Jonas, a 13 year old boy, who’s thoughts and observations sound very natural and familiar, like somebody you already know and care for.
Page by page, a new world that is set in some distant future unfolds with its “dangerous simplicity”. The wrong and right is not spelled out in the beginning of the book, so the reader has a chance to follow Jonas and to see everything and to decide for themselves. Jonas observations add up to questions, and he starts to see everything a bit differently, he starts to question himself if everything around him is exactly as it seems. In the Community, there are no choices, colors, pleasure, weather,love, emotions, etc. You can not choose your job, spouse, or anything like that. In the “Ceremony of Twelve”, 12 year olds are assigned a job in the Community. Jonas is singled out, and gets special training from The Giver. When Jonas becomes the “Receiver of Memory”, The Giver gives him the memories of the far past; memories of pain, fear, war, pleasure, colors,and love.
Further, the story flows into a beautiful climax – Jonas meets the Giver – a person who has an ability to “see beyond”, the ability that Jonas himself has as well and was chosen to develop it further as Giver’s student. The Giver “gives” Jonas all kind of feelings and memories that humanity has accumulated but denied to burden themselves with. Instead, it was up to one person to know all there is to know and to “shelter” everyone else from it. But Jonas knows too much now, and he decides to take action – something that no one have ever succeeded at in the community – he decides to flee in search of other, “real” way of living.
I think the book has an underlying commentary about the importance of history in a society and the dangers of extreme conformity. The people described are no more than sheep following blindly a set of rules, everything is managed by the state and there is no concept of death. What really made me cry is the way they “disposed” of the old people and the sick and the way they managed population control. No more than two children per family and children were not made via a sexual act but bred in a laboratory and then assigned to family.
There were girls who, at the age of 12, were assigned to be mothers and they would give birth to children until they could not do it anymore, afterwards being sent to work in fish factories or other places of low importance. Some girls wanted to be mothers, to be pampered and spoiled (with good food, no work) for years before and during pregnancies. But sometimes, a mother knows and a mother cannot let go of her child.
The book ends at even more provoking and intense note. But Jonas knows the truth now, and he is free to choose for himself. He is free to feel all there is to feel – excitement and pain equally…
About the Author
Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After several years at Brown University, she turned to her family and to writing. She is the author of more than thirty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series.
She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader.s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award.
She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association.s Children.s Book Award.
Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Cambridge and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at www.loislowry.com