Mar 1, 2012

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Intended Age-Group: 12+
Issues of Violence: Some war violence, painful scenes like breaking a leg, and euthanasia-of-sorts
Intimacy Level: Nonexistent
Swearing: none
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars

Last post I said I'd flip a quarter to see which book I'd read next. The contestants? Victor Hugo's, Les Miserables, and Ally Condie's, Crossed. To the shock of the judges, the quarter landed on edge and I found myself instead, between the pages of Lois Lowry's, The Giver

I've seen the cover of The Giver on shelves for several years. For some reason, it always made me think of a book about the Jewish Holocaust. Imagine my surprise when I was instead surrounded by a dystopian society with a twelve year old boy named Jonas.

Jonas confesses his apprehension about his upcoming ceremony of Twelve, where he will be given his assignment for life--his job and purpose for the society. Will he marry? Will he be a doctor? Will he be a low-down Laborer? When he receives his assignment, it's nothing like what he expected (though he didn't really know what he expected except that this was not it). And he suddenly finds himself set apart from all society in ways he never imagined.

Initial Reaction: *****
The book starts off with establishing the system of society and Jonas's relationship with his family. I enjoyed the portrayal of the government/society because it seemed more realistic than some other modern dystopian societies. The government wasn't heartless or all-controlling. There was still room for mistakes, jokes, and personal preferences.

Characters: *****
I love Jonas's character in this book, one trait in particular--the fact that he wants justice. Not a "I-want-to-shoot-up-the-world-because-it's-unfair" type of justice, but a justice that comes from wanting everyone to see and experience the world and life the way that it was meant to be. He comes to appreciate life and how life was created. Once he sees what he's missed out on during his 12 years, he wants the rest of society to see it, too.

Plot: *****
Jonas's "assignment" makes him endure pain from past and present experiences. He is thrust into situations of war (just memories, not real life) and witnesses the death of young boys his age. He experiences pain of loss, mourning, breaking of bones. He sees what life was like when family and holidays and love still existed, but now it's all gone. It's emotionally taxing and painful on him, but also a bit trying on the reader. It certainly stirred my thoughts in the area of how precious life and love are.

The way life is conveyed through this book -- the things we experience every day -- was a beautifully new perspective. I really enjoyed discovering emotions and colors and life through Jonas's innocent eyes, though it was often sad.

Overall, I enjoyed this book until the end. The ending was abrupt and very unfulfilling. I was severely disappointed to be left without closure, but the climax at the end was still thrilling. I suppose some would argue that Lowry leaves the ending up to your imagination. There are times when I like that and times when I don't. This time, I didn't. However, I've been told there is a second book, so I won't lose hope yet! :)

Spiritual Elements: *****
There aren't any Christian elements to the story. The citizens of this world view the government as a type of god. They don't worship it, but they trust that it never makes mistakes, it always has the best in mind for everyone, and it is the only "leader" that can make the perfect choices for people.

Other: Jonas has a dream that ushers in what are called "Stirrings". Stirrings are, what I've come to understand, romantic desire. The dream is of Jonas with another girl his age. He wants her to take off her clothes so he can bathe her like they do to the elderly in the House of Old, but she won't do it. He expresses to his family in the morning how confusing and embarrassing the wanting feeling was. It remains appropriate and really touches the topic from the view of a young boy suddenly developing romantic interest and desire. 

Another incident to take not of is in the early chapters of the book when Jonas is using his volunteer hours. He helps with "The Old" (elderly people) at a type of care facility. One of the duties is washing the elderly. Jonas's thoughts are included about "nakedness". It is illegal to look upon another's nakedness unless it is a newborn child or an elderly person who is being bathed. Jonas thinks about how he likes the openness and the freedom of not having to hide the nakedness. Everything stays appropriate and no physical details are included.

There are also incidents of controlled killings. I'm not sure what else to say about them. If a baby is born imperfect or they have too many children born in one year, the government inserts a needle into the baby's skull and injects a lethal liquid. The same is done for those who are too old to continue. It's rather morbid once it's discovered and very disturbing when done with emotionless and impassive "doctors".

Overall Recommendation:
I would recommend this book simply because I found it educational in the progress of novels and enlightening. It is extremely well known for winning multiple awards (e.g., Newberry Medal.) With my recent obsession with dystopian novels, I found this book right up my alley.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, released September 2014 from Enclave Publishing. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at

1 comment:

  1. There are 2 more books in the series, Gathering Blue and Messenger. Neither is as compelling as The Giver (in my view) though both are interesting. Messenger ends very strangely. One nice thing is that by the end of those books, you are 100% sure that Jonas and the baby made it to a safe place. It provides some blessed closure, and it is even clear that the people of Jonas' culture did grow and mature out of the experience.