Rating: 4 stars
The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.
This wasn’t my first time reading The Giver as I read this book back when I was in middle school. However, since its been such a long time since I’ve read it, I feel like I can give a review of my thoughts on it due to how much time has passed since I last read it.
What I find interesting about this book is the world you are introduced to through Jonas. He’s only twelve, but the world he lives in is pretty extraordinary in that its completely different from what we are used to. But as the reader, you don’t really realize how different it is until you get into the story, and he describes the community he lives in. For example, if you want to have a spouse and children, you have to apply for it instead of getting to choose who you want to marry and have children yourself. You are also only allowed to have two children, one boy and a girl, and there is a ceremony that happens when you’ve been approved to receive your child. I find this structure within this community interesting because its very different from what you would expect. It seems very orderly in a lot of ways because there’s a counsel that makes these decisions that is supposed to be for the good of the community.
Basically the world Jonas lives in is full of sameness where there seems to be nothing out of the ordinary. That is until Jonas turns twelve and attends his Ceremony of Twelve to find out what his Life Assignment will be. As the reader, that is when we really learn about the world Jonas inhabits and discover the darkness that hides within their community. Jonas gets assigned to be the Receiver of Memories, a job that’s deemed the most important job in the community, but you don’t discover why until Jonas meets his mentor known as The Giver. That’s when everything changes in Jonas’s life as he realizes everything isn’t what it seems and the world he’s grown up in isn’t as great of a place as it appears.
What I love about The Giver is that as the reader, you really feel for Jonas as you see his world turn upside down. What he thought was true about his life and the way he and everyone lives he finds out isn’t all that great. He learns that there are truths being kept from everyone in the community under the guise of being what’s best for everyone and that he’s being given the responsibility of shouldering everything for the sake of everyone in the community. And as he’s a twelve-year-old still learning about life, I found myself feeling very sympathetic to him and what he was going through as those who could’ve helped him were the ones responsible for putting him in this predicament.
The Giver takes place in a world that seems perfect, but that is far from the real truth as Jonas learns as he receives more and more memories. And as a reader, that’s what drew me into this world and the characters who inhabited it. While all of the characters save Jonas had any character development, I knew that was the point since nobody in this world really knew the truth about anything that was going on save those directly involved. Jonas was also who the story was about too, so it makes sense that none of the other characters in the story evolved in any way.
If I had to choose anything to criticize about this book it would be the ending. Not with regards to the choice Jonas makes, but that as the reader I felt like there was too much left up for interpretation. I also didn’t like that we didn’t see how his decision impacted the community and if there was any real change that happened as a result. I’d like to believe his choice made a huge impact, but without knowing, I have a difficult time believing it. Especially since the world he lived in had been the way it was for so long. I had a hard time believing the choice he and The Giver made really made an impact the way it was meant to and wouldn’t have been surprised if things continued the way they always had. Without seeing any of the story from The Giver’s perspective, its hard to know for sure and I didn’t like that. Because while I wanted to believe things in their world changed for the better, it was hard to know for sure without seeing how Jonas’s actions affected the community. And the only way we would know for sure is if some of the story had been told from The Giver’s perspective.
Overall however, I enjoyed reading The Giver again. There were some moments from the book I remembered from my first read, but I honestly feel like there was a lot I really didn’t remember, which made me feel like I was able to read this with a fresh mind. I know I enjoyed reading this book in middle school and I’m pleased to see I enjoyed it just as much this time but even more so as I feel like I truly understood what was going on and how dismal the world Jonas lived in truly was. I highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys any story told in a dystopian world that gives off the appearance of being a normal society and anyone who enjoys stories told from the perspective of a younger person who’s still learning about the world around them. Really excited to eventually read the rest of the books in The Giver series even though none of them continue where this one leaves off.