Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

Publisher: Laurel-Leaf Books (Random House) 
Pages: 179
Age: YA
Received: purchased as used book store

Jonas's 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 he 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's time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
I had seen this book on many lists these past few years and when I realized it was a dystopian-type novel I just had to add it to my YA-D2 Challenge. I cannot believe I have never read this before. It was a quick read as I was completely pulled into Jonas' world and kept flipping pages to see how this little society truly worked and what would happen. 

At first I was trying to pick out what I thought was happening in this utopian society, to figure out if it was truly people choosing to live without certain emotions and differences or if it were more like The Truman Show. I just couldn't see living a life where everything was picked out for you from your family, your job, your food, how and when to express yourself. How can it be that everyone is content being exactly the same and not being an individual? Yes there are no wars, no issues about race or religion, but what about feeling things such as love and knowing true freedom? I absolutely loved how this book made you question everything.

As we progress in the book and Jonas' is chosen to be the new Receiver for his chosen career path, we learn that only one person holds the memories and emotions of the collective population. Both the pleasure and pain of this job are depicted as The Giver transmits the memories to Jonas, which in turn makes Jonas question everything he is learning and everything he knows is true about his current community as a whole. I loved the passion that Jonas shows for the things he learns, his true compassion towards The Giver and his courage for being brave enough to be different from his peers.

I would have to say the scene that hit me hardest was when Jonas asked his mother "Do you love me?", because he had just learned what love was that same day. And her reply, though correct for how their society has been raised, just crushes poor Jonas' little soul and shocked me. Her reply, "...you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it's become almost obsolete." And his thoughts about her reply were exactly what I thought after reading her comment: Meaningless? He had never before felt anything as meaningful as the memory [of love].

Without giving away the story, I feel like Jonas is starting to make a change in his community, but we are left hanging at the end with no clear resolution. I suppose that we are left to draw our own conclusions about what truly happens. I did actually see that there are three books to this series that I didn't realize was actually a series in the first place. I will be on the lookout now for Gathering Blue and Messenger.

I also read somewhere that it falls along the same lines of Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World, both of which I have not read. I must read these as well as they are based on utopian societies that feel they are offering the perfect communities for their people, yet are keeping them from enjoying the freedoms and passion in life as an individual.

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