The Giver – Lois Lowry

Posted 15 January, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 19 Comments

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Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Date Finished: January 13, 2008
Pages: 179
Rating: 4/5

The past couple of books I’ve read, including The Book Thief which I’m currently reading, have all come as recommendations from other bloggers (see my new tag below “BloggerRec“). When I was in fourth grade I read Number the Stars and loved it, so I was particularly interested in reading this book. I finally picked it up last weekend (despite my book ban) and read it on our trip to Oregon–mostly in one day on the plane.

I liked this book a lot, but something is keeping me from loving it–perhaps the ending (no–I won’t give anything away). The book was a very quick read, but unlike some recent YA lit that I’ve read, the ideas were pretty complex and the writing more developed.

The Giver is the story of a young 12-year-old boy, Jonas, who is about to receive his community calling (in other words his occupation). At first the community Jonas lives in seems like a perfect one–one with little pain and great happiness, but at a closer glance it becomes apparent that the society is greatly manipulated so that everything is the same (Sameness). There are strict rules and regulations, and if these are broken, the offender will be “released” from the society.

When Jonas is given his calling, he is selected to become the “Receiver of Memory” – a role that means he will hold not only the community’s memories, but the memories of all time. Because Jonas will hold these memories, the community does not need to. For example, instead of the community having memories–whether actual or learned–of things like war, only Jonas will carry these memories–and the pain that goes along with such memories. In addition to bad memories, though, some of the good things have also gone away such as colors, music, sunshine.

During Jonas’s training to become the next Receiver of Memories, and as he learns more about how is community is compared to how it once was, he starts asking questions about whether or not Sameness is the best way to live life. Will Jonas be able to make a change in the community? The Giver is a touching story and I would recommend it. Now if I can just get my little brother to pick it up (I haven’t had any luck interesting him in any of the YA lit I’ve read recently…).

19 Responses to “The Giver – Lois Lowry”

  1. I loved The Giver, but I waffled forever on what happened at the end. I finally went with the happy ending.

    I am working on my review of Time Traveler’s Wife, but when I think too hard about it the time line makes my head hurt. I did love the book!

  2. cj

    This one has been on my ‘maybe to be read list’ for some time. I think I’d like it and your review helps push me a bit more in that direction.

    Not that I really need to be pushed to buy a book!


  3. My son really enjoyed this book. But, I can relate to that comment about not being able to interest your little brother. I had to work hard at getting my children interested in certain titles – others, they just wouldn’t read. The one book I was *determined* to get them both to read was The Cay. With both kids, I actually had to pick up the book and read the first two pages aloud, but it was so funny . . . my kids are 7 years apart (so I did this twice – with about a 7-year gap between the two readings) and in both cases, two pages was all it took before they snatched it out of my hands and went off to read the rest. You might try that, some time, if you have a book that starts out gripping enough that reading aloud would suck him right in.

  4. I hadn’t even heard of Lois Lowry until I started blogging, but since then I’ve seen so many great reviews of her books. I already have Number the Stars in one of my challenge lists, and I’m sure I’ll find an excuse to squeeze this one in sooner or later.

  5. *Lisa – to be honest I had a difficult time with the ending as well, but I would like to be optimistic about how things went.

    *CJ – I got my copy at half price books for less than 5 bucks–not a bad way to go. And its a quick read–so, why not?? :)

    *Bookfool – Thanks for the suggestion. About a year and a half ago I was able to find a series that he loved (by RL Stine), but he’s a little too old for them now and he already has a tendancy to pick up books that are well below his reading level (The Giver would fall into that category, but I think it has a lot of mature themes in it). I can’t remember what motivated me to read when I was his age–I always loved to read (except when it was a book I *had* to read for school–most of which I’ve gone back and read since then). My sisters are just now starting to enjoy reading (in their early twenties), so maybe its just time. It is frustrating, though!! :) I’m going to look up The Cay this weekend, though.

    *Nymeth – I really liked Number the Stars when I was little. Its been probably 10-15 years since I’ve read it, but many parts are still vivid in my mind (which is more than I can say for the majority of what I read now). And they are quick books–! I think you would especially like this one, though.

  6. For some reason I found The Giver kind of disturbing, but it’s been so long that I read it I can’t quite remember why! I think I need to read it again…

  7. Interesting how you mentioned Number the Stars. I’ve taught that book in fourth and fifth grades to really great discussions. I’ve never been able to generate the same type of discussions with The Giver. (BTW, I’m reading The Book Thief right now)

  8. *Jeane – I think the community that they lived in was very disturbing–just knowing that there could be a world without any choices or freedom (or happiness…even the sun!).

    *Bookgal – I really liked Number the Stars in 4th grade–and think I may have even read it again since then, but I don’t own it. I wonder why NtS sparked so much more conversation than The Giver?

  9. Go ahead and read Gathering Blue and Messenger to find out the rest of the story. Lowry has made a loose trilogy with those three books.

  10. Holes was the book that I got my son to read, that was one of his first bigger chapter books. He later enjoyed The Giver as well.

    And I did that ‘read the first page or two’ thing with Tale of Despereausx with my 7 year old daughter, and she did. She ripped it right out of my hand.

  11. *Laura – Thanks so much for the suggestions!!

    *Raidergirl – I think my brother has read Holes and liked it. I guess maybe he’s just at that age where reading isn’t necessarily fun. :)

    *Lisa – Dangit!! :) I’m going out of town, but I’ll check it out when I return.

  12. I really loved this book too, although I’m still not sure about the ending!! I read it just a few months ago….and was really moved by it!!

    My little brother is a reader too. I just had lunch with him and my parents yesterday, and it’s the first time I’ve actaully seen him in over a year. With his work schedule and mine, we can never actually get together. But we do talk and email a lot. Of course, my parents got upset with us yesterday, because they thought we were totally leaving them out of the conversation!!

  13. Hi Trish! I really enjoyed reading The Giver last year and your review has made me want to read it again. Oh and I can’t wait to read your review of The Book Thief.

    Best wishes, Lore

  14. This is another one where the concept is kind of interesting to me, but seems slightly heavy-handed. I imagine it would depend largely on the author’s skill in executing it, though.

  15. I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading Gathering Blue and Messanger. The appearence of colour for Jonas must have been extraordinary, it’s so difficult to imagine a world without any. The ending was a little strange though I agree, but it did leave things very open as to the future of Jonas.

  16. *Stephanie – Ya, I have a tough time with ambiguous endings! I’ll be really interested in the sequels, though, if I get around to finding them. ;)

    *Lore – thanks for coming by! This one is definitely short enough that it could be easily revisited!

    *Heather – If by “heavy-handed” you mean really contrived, I don’t necessarily think this book feels that way. It is a young-adult book, so there isn’t a whole lot of detail. Overall I think that Lowry did a great job of writing about complicated issues–without totally oversimplicating things. I’ve confused myself, I think!

    *Rhinoa – color would be a difficult thing for me as well–and certainly difficult to imagine (I guess it would be like a black and white movie?). This book certainly made me think twice about how free we truly are.

  17. Kim

    I know this is a very late post but thought I’d throw my two cents in. I gave “The Giver” 5 stars even though I too didn’t like the end that well. The rest of the book was so fascinating to me that I just pushed the so-so ending out of my mind and let myself enjoy the rest. I have “Gathering Blue” and “Messenger” checked out from the library right now but haven’t been able to get to them yet. I’ve heard that they aren’t as good as “The Giver” but are still good.

  18. *Kim – no worries about commenting late! I love comments no matter what books they are for. Sometimes when I read someone’s blog I’ll search WAY back into the past. :) I’m OK with the ending of this book, but I just wish it wasn’t quite so ambiguous. I don’t know much about the others in this “series”, but I did really like Number the Stars, which is totally unrelated in subject matter. Thanks for coming by!