The Giver

The Giver - Lois Lowry Rating Clarification: 3.5 stars

The Giver, a classic utopian/dystopian is a quick and easy read; one could easily finish this book in one sitting. The writing style is quite simple and easy to understand; even though some concepts are a bit hard to grasp at first...simply because it is so foreign to our way of life. But with all that said it is a story that sticks with you. It makes you think & it evokes emotions.

Despite it's simple style, it is somewhat of a difficult book to summarize so bear with me. We have Jonas, the story's protagonist approaching his coming of age with some apprehension. In this future unnamed society, when children turn twelve they are assigned their life's work. Jonas is apprehensive, not because he doesn't trust the society to come up with the right assignment for him; of course not the society is perfect, flawless and organized. No, Jonas feels apprehensive because he does not feel he has a clear calling as some of his friends do. He truly has no clue what his assignment will be and the wondering makes him uneasy. Finally, we learn that Jonas has been selected for a very prestigious and rare assignment: he is to become the new receiver; the person that keeps all the past memories of generations before him. For you see in this society, as we come to learn there are no feelings, no memories...no colours even. The society long ago chose 'sameness' as a way to survive or to adapt. One person only; the receiver keeps all the past memories, feelings within him like a vessel of knowledge and advises the community when they need guidance, as they all continue to live blissfully unburdened and yet oddly vacant; though unbeknownst to them.

Soon everything Jonas thought he knew, all that he believed to be true is turned upside down. As he begins his training with the current receiver...or the giver as he calls himself now that he is training his replacement; Jonas is thrust into memories of warfare, of pain the likes of which he has never known, of colours for which the rest of the society no longer sees and of love. All these intense emotions and memories are quite foreign to Jonas; as they would be to anyone else in this society where they take medication to suppress desires and emotions. But once Jonas' eyes are opened he can never go back, and he is forced to come to terms with the heavy burden given to him and him alone. His world is forever changed and he begins to feel very much appart from his family, friends and the rest of the community as he grapples with truths that he alone knows and comes to the realization that his 'perfect' society is not at all as innocent and good as he once believed...

While it does start a bit on the slow; simply because of Jonas' innocence and the fact that he doesn't receive his assignment until chapter 7, I found my interest quickly mounting as soon as he begun receiving from the giver. The concept of sharing memories was a bit sketchy, but other than that the idea of one person storing all past knowledge, memories and information was oddly fascinating, albeit decidedly sad. I really felt for the giver and certainly for Jonas too as he becomes the receiver and it takes his innocence away in such a jarring fashion. While it can be hard for any reader to grasp the way this society functions and why they came to be the way they are, I found that I quickly cast those questions aside; that is not the story being told here. The ending is purposefully ambiguous and open ended but again the ending is not the point. The point is Jonas made a choice. And his choice opens up a whole realm of possibilities. And to be honest, there could be no other choice. It's hard for me to rate it higher than I did, simply because it's so short and so simple...and it's not mind-blowing either. Fans of utopian/dystopians will be able to see whats coming quickly enough, but it's simple style and powerful message make it a must read for one and all.