Your world is perfect and it is all you know. Disruptions are minimal and dealt with swiftly. All is as it was.
And for eleven year old, about to turn twelve Jonas, you will find out all life is wrong.
That is the best, non-spoilery, way I could think of to very swiftly describe The Giver. This award winning YA novel by Lois Lowry is considered a modern classic, having come out in 1993, and is frequently challenged by small minded censors.
They probably recognize themselves in The Giver. And not in a good way.
“Fun doesn’t end when you become Twelve.”
But back to Jonas and his all.
When we start out, Jonas is telling us of some disquiet that happened one day and how his society remedies it.
This opens the window for us to see how this society works, his family functions, and the happiness all enjoy. All the structures and rules and firm politeness is part of the glue which makes everything feel oh so perfect. Inside the home, society gently makes the family all get along and be loving and supportive and kind. Any and all bad things that could possibly happen, or have happened, are sanitized with words and actions no one really truly understands.
“Thank you for your childhood.”
As Jonas approaches his Twelfth birthday, we see he has come of age for his career to be chosen for him. And this is where we, and Jonas, begin the unraveling of all that is.
For Jonas becomes the Receiver of Memory. Learning about the world from The Giver. Cue chaos.
It is obvious for any reader that the utopia presented in the first third of The Giver is not quite right. Hints and dangly loose threads of life show us that many many things are wrong here. By the halfway point, the clear picture of how truly horrible this dystopia is becomes clear, even to Jonas who is only now waking up.
“I accept your apology.”
With all the revelations, breakthroughs, plans, and deep thoughts that rolls on as The Giver progresses, the concepts of what is a good society is debated. The Giver and The Receiver will make you question the roles of emotions in who and what we are, plus how our actions because of feelings can affect the greater society around us.
As these issues are fleshed out, we also see Jonas learning of how the efficiencies that have always been part of the fabric of all he knows make everything fun so very very very smoothly, but at the cost of imagination, fun, and a sense of history.
So much of this culminates towards the conclusion with a subplot exploding that I never expected to explode. And crystalizes the massive differences of Jonas from the start to the Jonas at the end. Which also illustrates how the wrongness of this society can be fixed by a simple kindness by a child.
“Call me The Giver.”
The Giver is rich in thought and textures of emotions. Lois Lowry also provides dialogue and sentences that perfectly sum up so much in so little. Her accomplishment in making Jonas and this world ring true will cause an immediate urge to seek out the loose sequels Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.
One of these deals with the ambiguous final pages of The Giver. My optimism leads me to think happy thoughts. Ones I know The Giver and Receiver would be find pleasing.
…is currently reading Squadron Supreme: Death Of A Universe by Mark Gruenwald and Paul Ryan
P.S. The Giver movie opens on Friday, August 15th, 2014. The trailer does not fill me with hope since oh so very much looks to have been changed. I wished The Giver had been present to guide them.