Blog Post / Spring 2020

The Giver Book Review By: Alyssa Jack

The Giver is a young adult dystopian novel and also classified as a science fiction novel. It’s written by Lois Lowry and was published in 1993. Lois Lowry highlights nationalist propaganda by using emotional appeals and dualistic morality to shut down her readers minds. The book revolves around children and demonstrates how they don’t yet have the ability to defend themselves from their given circumstances.

When this book was published, the response it has on its reader was amazing. It won many prizes for young adult literature, as well as the Newbery Medal and the William Allen White Award. There are schools all over the country that assign it to be read. This book is basically about how everyone takes drugs to suppress their memories and emotions. It’s sold more than 12 million copies, adapted into a play, musical, opera, and recently a movie. Her inspiration behind writing this was because of her father’s memory loss.

“He didn’t have Alzheimer’s, but he began to lose pieces of his memory, the way people do as they age,” she recalls. One day, she showed her father a photo of her sister, who died at the age of 28. “And he said, ‘I can’t remember her name,’ and I told him her name…. And he said, ‘Whatever happened to her?’ And I had to tell him about her death.” (Neda.).

This book is written from the character, Jonas’s point of view. He’s only eleven and the society he lives in doesn’t feel any kind of pain, fear, war, hatred, sexual desires, and even love. It’s as if everyone is the same. Everything is fair, and everyone is polite. No one oversteps any boundaries and doesn’t know they have the capability to even do so. There’s also no choice as to what profession they want to go into to. The committee assigns a job after watching the citizens over the year and selects their jobs based on an individual’s abilities and interests. Everything is regulated. They have to apply to become spouses if they want to get married and they’re only allowed two children who come from birth mothers. At the ceremonies the new parents don’t even get to pick their child’s name, the committee does. The is no sexual connections and they take pills to suppress those urges.

Every year as a child ages they all unitedly get the same thing. For example, at the age of nine the girls would trade in their hair ribbons for bicycles. They hold a ceremony each year and follows the years for which the kids are, and they even have a releasing ceremony for the elderly when it’s their time to pass. It’s sad to think they don’t get to pass on their own time. At the age of twelve they get assigned a job. The receive is the most important job and only one person has it. In this case of the book Jonas is selected to be the next receiver. They also haven’t had a new receiver in years but the one who holds the job now is getting old and they need to replace him.

As Jonas begins his training sessions, he starts to uncover the truth about the world. The previous receiver is now called the giver. He’s called this because he transfers all the memories of pain, fear, hate, happiness, sadness, joy, love, and more to Jonas’s memory. Having to take on this huge task Jonas struggles and doesn’t understand. He doesn’t like the pain but loves all the happy memories and the colors he sees and the feelings he gets when he stops taking his required pills.

The whole tone of this book is uncomforting because of Jonas’s journey and how wrong he realizes everything is. After his father brings home a twin named, Gabriel who cries a lot, Jonas forms a bond with him. Later Jonas discovers that his father has killed babies because they can’t have twins, the weaker or less imperfect one has to be released. Jonas is in shock with how his society truly is. His father says that they’re going to have to release Gabe soon because he cries too much. Jonas, after knowing all these memories and feels and the truth decides to run away and take Gabe with him. He wants to find a better place for himself and for Gabe to have a chance to survive. His leaving returns all the pain and memories to the community and it becomes all of their burden to bear.

I love how Jonas reacts to everything he’s going through and the connection he makes with Gabe. It brings out his humanity and by having those memories flood back into the community, it gives them a chance to truly feel, come alive, and gain their sense of humanity back.

I choose this book because when I first read it in eight grade it became one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it every summer since. I love the deeper meaning Lowry brings into this book. The world they live in is fascinating to me. How they take away the ability to see colors and feel any kind of emotion. This kind of world sounds horrible to me because everyone is living in a society of personal emotionlessness. I’m the kind of person who wears their heart on their sleeve and sometimes I don’t like the bad emotional moment (but who really does?), but to live in a world where I don’t have a choice or right to my feelings sound awful. The people in this society don’t even realize what their missing out on and I tend to think that there are a lot of people within our society now that choose to ignore their feelings or not realize how much they’re truly blocked from them.

Putting all the burden and pressure on Jonas is a lot to handle. I love Jonas’s character and how he constantly asks the Giver “Why?”. Why are all these memories hidden from their people, why can’t he share them with the world, why is there pain and love and what is the meaning behind it all? This book really illustrates how there’s beauty within pain. To feel emotion is to really be human. At the end when Jonas leaves and those memories return to his people, in my opinion they can truly start living.

Also reading about the inspiration behind her writing this book makes me love the book even more. Alzheimer’s runs in my family and my Grandma has been having some rough times with it. It’s a scary process and even though Lois Lowry’s father didn’t have I see a lot of connections in the book that highlight the importance of memories.

I do wear my heart on my sleeve and I honestly wouldn’t choose to have it any other way. Being able to feel and expression any kind of emotion is one quality that makes us all unique. I want to live my life being and feeling as real as possible. Not being afraid to feel and express any experience I have in life and this is what I believe Jonas feels throughout his journey.

Rating: 10/10

Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Dell Laurel-Leaf, 1993.

Ulaby, Neda. “Lois Lowry Says ‘The Giver’ Was Inspired By Her Father’s Memory Loss. “NPR: National Public Radio, NPR, 16 Aug. 2014, http://www.npr.org/2018/08/16/340170478/lois-lowry-says-the-giver-wa-inspired-by-her-fathers-memory-loss.

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