I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
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 the 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 is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back. (source)
I remember reading this as a middle school student and being blown away by how different it was from any other book that I'd ever read before. This was my first exposure to the dystopia sub-genre and it really gave me a new perspective. I never read the book again as a teenager, but for this week, my Resources for Young Adults professor asked us to read a YA book that has been adapted into a film, and then watch the film adaptation. I jumped at the chance to reread The Giver, as well as the opportunity to finally watch the film, which I'd been wanting to see for quite some time.
Well, as it turns out, in the approximately ten years since I'd first read this, I'd forgotten most of the story. I still think that it takes a really interesting approach to dystopia. It compels readers to consider issues such as the sanctity of human life and the power of choice. It made me appreciate, once again, how lucky I am to live in a world where I have the freedom to pretty much be whoever I want to be. Although I don't think anyone lives in a world quite like Jonas's, there are certainly societies in this world that live according to much stricter rules than I have had to. I'm grateful that I've been able to have the life that I have.
However, The Giver didn't stun me quite as much as it did when I first read it. Part of this could very well be because I've read so many dystopias in the time since I first read this. It's impossible not to compare this to series such as The Hunger Games or Divergent, and to be completely honest, Lois Lowry's style of writing in this book didn't draw me in quite as much as the styles used in those book series did. Lowry's style in The Giver is very direct, almost to the point of excessive simplicity. The tone is completely devoid of flourishes or breathtaking statements. There's really nothing remarkable about it, except for the fact that it is SO unremarkable. Part of me think that this was intentional. In a way, it emphasizes the complete conformity and monotony of Jonas's world. But I must admit that at times, the monotony of the writing style seeps into what is otherwise a very compelling story.
I really love how inconclusive the ending of this story is. I'm told that later books in the series give the answers to the questions that are left at the end of this, but, while I usually like to have all loose ends neatly wrapped up, in this case, I think that the questions lend the story a deeper meaning. This book doesn't have a straight-forward happy ending. We don't know if things ever change in Jonas's community. We just know that by trying to protect its citizens, the town where Jonas grew up ended up robbing them of a truly fulfilling life. The beauty of this story is that the reader doesn't need Jonas to save the day to receive the message that Lowry wants to convey.
So while I didn't love this book quite as much as I did ten years ago, I think I appreciate it even more than I did then. This story is the beginning of one of the biggest sub-genres of young adult literature - this is where all those best selling book-to-film blockbusters began. And, while it didn't suck me in while reading it quite as much as some of those books did, I think that its messages resonate a bit longer and a bit truer. Although I've chosen to give this four rather than five stars, I would consider this book to be a must-read.