Series Sunday: ‘The Giver’

Many books in my book queue are waiting to be read, and a common theme among them is they’re all part of a series, trilogy or saga. Each Sunday, I’ll share a book from a series. You can read along with me, or add the books to your own reading list. This week, I read “The Giver,” the first book in a series of four loosely related novels by Lois Lowry. 
“The Giver” is a novel that has been revisited over and over again in middle-school classrooms. It was written in 1993 and in 1994 it won a Newberry Medal.  
The story follows 12-year-old Jonas. He’s a member of an “utopian” society that has gone to Sameness. Everyone wears the same clothing, shares their dreams every morning and shares their feelings at the dinner table every night. The adults take pills to repress emotions, mostly sexual feelings. Those who take the pills also can’t see colors or differences between one human being and another. Men and women apply for a spouse and are matched using different factors. The couples can then apply for children and have two children, a boy and a girl, already named for them, who come from birthmothers.  
When Jonas turns 12, he is assigned the job of being “receiver of memory” for the community. He visits a man who never tells Jonas his real name, only that he’s “The Giver,” and retains all memories from when the world was different. Jonas begins receiving memories of terrible things such as war, pain and hunger, but he also learns about joy, love and happiness, too.  
In the meantime, Jonas’ family receives a third child to care for named Gabriel. Gabriel is sent to live with Jonas’ family because he cries and is restless through the night. Jonas’ father brings Gabriel home from the nurturing center in the hopes of preventing Gabriel from being “released,” which Jonas learns from The Giver later is just an institutionalized form of lethal injection. Babies that don’t meet certain benchmarks for development are “released,” as are the old who live past their life expectancy and those who no longer want to live with the community.
Jonas begins talking to The Giver about changing the society in which he lives. After he learns Gabriel is to be released, he escapes the community on his bike, taking Gabriel with him. The ending is left open as Jonas and Gabriel slowly starve and experience symptoms of hypothermia. He could have died in the cold and the snow, or he could have made it to a community with lights, warmth and singing.  
I read “The Giver” on my own when I was in fifth grade. It was not assigned to me. When I read “The Giver” at the tender age of 11, I remember not being able to put it down. I was surprised to learn, now, that parents have petitioned to have the book removed from lower grade level curricula because some believe the book’s content is inappropriate for younger children. When I was younger, I was a little shocked at some of the content, such as the scene where Jonas’ father administers a lethal injection to an infant. The narrative depicts the infant dying and Jonas’ father putting it in a box and throwing it down a trash chute. It’s only a few sentences, described matter-of-factly, but it’s still a little gritty. It mostly made me think about what it would be like to live in a society like Jonas’. I didn’t think, “Wow, this is really not appropriate for my age level!” nor was I terrified out of my mind about it.  
Dystopian adolescent novels are a dime a dozen these days, but “The Giver” helped pave the way for books such as “The Hunger Games” and “Delirium.” Dystopian literature allows readers to consider the society in which they live. Are the rules that are followed in the fictional society similar to those we follow now? Could our society ever turn into one such as is depicted in “The Giver?” It also helps us to be grateful for the freedoms we do have and the diversity we notice and celebrate every day. 
Next week I’ll be talking about “Gathering Blue.”

This entry was posted in Award, Book review, Fiction, For kids, Kids' titles adults will love, Recommended, Series Sunday, Teen books. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Series Sunday: ‘The Giver’

  1. Pingback: Book Buzz | Series Sunday: ‘Gathering Blue’

  2. Pingback: Book Buzz | Series Sunday: ‘Messenger’

  3. Pingback: Book Buzz | Series Sunday: ‘Matched’ by Ally Condie

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