Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Giver

The Giver
Lois Lowry
Originally published in 1993, winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal
Laurel Leaf, 2002
$6.99, Paperback
April 30th, 2012

Genre: Science Fiction
Age: 12+
Description: Jonas is an 11-year-old boy anxious about his upcoming Ceremony of 12 where he will be given his Assignment—the job he will perform for his community. One day, Jonas’s father, a nurturer, brings home Gabe, a newchild who needs extra “nurturing.” While playing catch with his friend, Asher, Jonas sees an apple “change” in mid-air but thinks nothing of it. Meanwhile, Jonas spends some volunteer hours with the House of the Old, where old people are sent to await their Release. Jonas also participates in a number of community rituals, such as talking about his dreams and his day, and his first experience of “Stirrings.” Soon the Ceremony of 12 is upon Jonas. He watches all of his friends receive their Assignments while he is passed over. The Chief Elder calls him to the stage because he is not be assigned—“Jonas has been selected.” The previous Receiver of Memory, chosen 10 years ago, failed, so the Elders spent more time in selecting Jonas because he has the qualities needed—intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom, and the “Capacity to See Beyond.” Jonas’s training is special—he can be rude, he can ask questions and demand answers, he can’t discuss his training, and he doesn’t have to talk about his dreams, but he can’t apply for release from his Assignment. Jonas begins his training with the current receiver, who tells Jonas to call him The Giver. His job is to give Jonas “all the memories . . . of the world”. Jonas soon begins to experience memories of things that the world gave up since it converted to “Sameness,” things such as cold, snow, heat, and sunburn. The Giver soon explains to him the “change” Jonas saw earlier in the apple—it’s the “Capacity to See Beyond.” Jonas is beginning to see in color. His training also involves painful memories, such as hunger and war, but also of happy memories, such as family and love. The Receiver of Memory needs all these in order to advise the Committee of Elders. Meanwhile, Jonas becomes close to Gabe—getting him to sleep by transmitting soothing memories to him. Eventually, The Giver tells Jonas about the previous Receiver who failed—a girl named Rosemary who had five weeks of memories before she went to the Elders and asked for release. Upon her release all those memories went back to the community, which was a very painful ordeal for everyone. One day, Jonas asks to see a release. The Giver orders a recording of Jonas’s father releasing one of a pair of newly born identical twins. Jonas sees the real meaning of the ceremony—“He killed it! My father killed it!” The Giver tries to help him understand his father was just following the rules: “They know nothing.” The Giver believes that things must change and he and Jonas might be able to do it. They secretly plan for Jonas to fake his death. Jonas wants The Giver to come with him, but he tells Jonas he can’t: “When my work here is finished, I want to be with my daughter . . .” Unfortunately, Jonas has to change plans immediately when his father informs him that Gabe is going to be released. Jonas and Gabe travel far away from the community—traveling by night and sleeping by day and staying out of view of search planes. Soon they enter into uncivilized country—Jonas keeps them alive by sharing memories with Gabe. As the boys starve and face harsh conditions, Jonas thinks he might have made the wrong choice, however, “if he had stayed, he would have starved in other ways . . .” At the end of their long journey, they get caught in a snowstorm on top of a hill. He sees a very familiar looking sled and knows what to do with it. He and Gabe slide down the hill and hear music as they approach a new village. The story is later also connected to Gathering Blue and The Messenger. Later this fall, The Son, will be the true sequel (not just companion novel) to The Giver.
Opinion: This is a science fiction story of a future utopian society in which all pain and worrying has been eliminated by a conversion to “Sameness.” The Giver is a Newbery Award-winning novel which addresses issues of individuality and freedom in an isolated community that revolves around the ideal of “Sameness.” The Giver is part of the tradition of dystopian novels in which perfect societies are actually shown as flawed because they regulate intellectual and emotional freedom. Lowry tackled significant social issues of the early 1990s in her novel, such as the anti-abortion versus pro-life controversy and assisted suicide. Lowry’s willingness to write about issues has made The Giver one of the most frequently censored books in school libraries and curricula. It is truly a classic that all tweens and teens should read. (Plus, everyone remembers the cover—it is so iconic. You never forget the creepy old man!)

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