Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Giver

Serendipitously, I chanced upon a copy of The Giver at a used book shop, a short novel I've been meaning to read, signed by the author Lois Lowry, who wrote, in 1994,

"with love to those who
read--
remember--
and GIVE"

a most fitting inscription for this book, which was published in 1993.


Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, The Giver has been called controversial due to some of the mature themes, and has been banned at various times. Despite or more likely partially due to this, The Giver is one of the most popular books read by young adults today. It's also read in some college-level classes, because it leads easily into discussions about rules, conformity, freedom of choice, and other significant topics.

"If everything's the same, then there aren't any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things! A blue tunic, or a red one?"
~The Giver, Lois Lowry

Set in the future, The Giver is the story of a young boy named Jonas living in a highly structured, controlled community, a society which has eliminated pain and strife by converting to "Sameness". Residents live peacefully in "family units", and there are many rules and ages for nearly everything. For example, when a child becomes "a Nine", he or she is officially allowed to ride a bicycle. In this novel, there's much attention given to the importance of the "precision of language", which is taken to such an extreme that corporeal punishment is used from an early age to ensure it. Upon the first "stirrings", children begin to take special pills that they'll continue to take throughout life to control their emotions, stay detached, and carry out prescribed functions. Each member of this society is assigned a life role as "a Twelve", giving each a job in a safe, predictable environment for all. Furthermore, those who fail to conform properly are "released", in order to preserve the integrity of the community as a whole. What at first appears to a be a utopia soon reveals its limitations as a society in which much has been relinquished. Gone are feelings, memories, colors, choices--even books! As the protagonist, Jonas, explores memories of a past he has never before known, he realizes that he's been existing in a bland, colorless, dystopia, devoid of true emotional depth.

This book makes you think. I'll recommend it to my children as well as my readers, and reread it myself. It dramatizes the importance of questioning the status quo, and the cost and value of individuality and freedom of thought and choice. If you have read this book, or intend to in the future, I hope you'll take a moment to share your own thoughts.

5 comments:

  1. Wow that book sounds great! sort of reminds me of a Sci-fi movie back in the seventies or eighties called Logan's Run.

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  2. What a lucky find...and to be signed by the author himself?! That is super special. I would love to read this! I love the quotation. May I use it in one of my blog?

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  3. That is great find! Signed by the author! Great review too. I've been seeing this book around but this is the first time I read the summary. It does sound interesting.

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  4. This book sits downstairs on the shelves with a lot of other young adult books, but I've never read it. Now seems a good time to bring it up onto my nightstand and add it to my line-up of books to read. Thanks for the reminder. I'm looking forward to thinking!

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  5. Kim, you've probably read Ray Bradbury, the "king" of sci-fi.

    Mervat, of course you may use her quote, and thanks for stopping by!

    Mee and Christie, there are a lot of wonderful books for young adults that we can also enjoy.

    I appreciate each of your comments, as always.

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