Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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.
Thoughts: When you live in a world where everything’s taken care of, where there’s no pain, no real uncertainty, where people say what they mean and mean what they say, where the job you have is perfectly suited to you, where your spouse’s personality complements yours, what possible problems could there be with life?
As we come to find out, plenty. But that’s what makes a dystopia, after all. You take a society that seems perfect on the surface, and you scratch a little deeper and look a little harder, and you see that things aren’t as pristine as people would like you to think.
While Lowry’s book was written for a younger audience, it tackles some very deep and hard-hitting issues that even make adults uncomfortable. The most obvious of these being the cheerful and ignorant use of euthanasia, known better in this book as Release, which is used to end the lives of people who are getting too old and have reached the end of their appointed time, for people who don’t feel like they can or ever will fit in, and, as Jonas comes to learn in one disturbing scene, for disposing of the inconvenient problem of identical twins. Can’t have two similar-looking people in society, after all. It would confuse people. And the birth rate is so carefully planned that the birth of twins might cause a strain on food supplies and housing. Much better to Release them and send them Elsewhere.
Other rather complex issues tackled in this book involve the absense of love as an accepted emotion, collective unconscious memory, and genetic manipulation. Not exactly easy topics to cover, or to simplify enough that younger audiences can understand them while still keeping the essence of the issue alive, but Lowry manages quite well.
Until the time that the final book of the trilogy was published, there was some controversy surrounding the ending. Jonas’s escape from his community, and subsequent struggle through the wilderness, wasn’t easy to read, but as he grows colder, weaker, hungrier, and in the end sees a sled very like the one in the first memory he received from the Giver, and starts to see lights in the distance and even hear music, many people wondered if this was less a real thing and more of a hallucination suffered by a dying boy who carried hope with him until the very end. Both theories certainly had their merit. Jonas remembers a place he’s never actually been to but has familiar and comforting elements, while half dead from exposure, certainly lent credence to the hallucination theory. Others prefered to believe that Jonas finally found the escape that he was looking for, and found a new place that he could live without all the terror that he had come to realize was lurking beneath the surface of his own ordered community.
The truth is revealed in the final book of the trilogy. For those who haven’t read that one yet, I won’t spoil it for you. At least not in this review!
Ultimately, this is one novel that I think can appeal to far more than it was perhaps originally intended, and a real testament to just how much children and teens can actually handle and learn is you bother to expose them to it. This is a book that, if you haven’t read it yet, you really ought to, and I hope you can take from it as much as I have. Believe me, it really is worth it.