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Non-1001 Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

the Giver

First published: 1993
Awards: Newbery Medal in 1995
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by: Jen
Find it/Buy it here: The Giver

I realize that this will be an unpopular post because everyone I know loves this book with a passion. I’m fully prepared for all your comments to prove me wrong about this book!

The Giver is a young adult/children’s dystopian novel that was published in the early 1990s. It follows the story of a young boy, Jonas, who is living in what initially appears to be a utopian society. When Jonas is selected to become the new “Receiver of Memory” he has to reconcile his new knowledge of how things used to be with the current state of his surroundings. The Receiver of Memory is the one person in the community who must contain all the past memories (painful and joyous) of what life was like prior to their current community. Jonas learns that his utopian society exists exclusively because all emotion, color, memories, and individuality have been eradicated.

I find it hard to rate books that are so clearly intended toward children because the elements I dislike (simplicity of plot) are elements that are needed to appeal to, or be understandable for children.  The book is probably perfect for children ages 9-12. The problem is that as an adult, I felt bored. The story was just too simplistic for my adult tastes although I think as a child I would have loved the story. There’s little in the way of emotional or character development and the whole thing is just a little too cutesy for my tastes. Although young Jonas faces some difficult and heart-wrenching decisions, those decisions never really felt genuinely difficult or heart-wrenching the way it did in other young adult books I’ve read. For example, authors can write about characters feeling pain (emotional or physical) but to truly experience the pain with the characters, the author needs to do more than just say “it was painful.”

Another thing that bothers me is that nothing is ever explained. There are no details about why things are the way they are in this “utopia” or about how the people in charge (whoever they are) are able to control everything. As readers we simply have to take the author’s word for granted many times. Half the time I was shouting “why? why? it doesn’t make sense!”

Like I said earlier, I’m sure I’ll get some push-back for this review since everyone raves about this book. Lots of adults have read it and have encouraged me to read it. Unfortunately, I can’t rave about this book. I think it is a great book for young children because it raises interesting moral issues in a way that may be easy for them to understand. But, I don’t see the appeal of this book for adults. It was entertaining enough, but the lack of complexity drove me crazy. For adults at least, there are many superior books that cover the issues raised in this book in a more interesting and complex manner.

I do highly recommend this book for children. You can find it here: The Giver

Okay, so now it’s your turn to tell me why I’m wrong! What did you think about the book? Did you love it, like it, or dislike it? Why am I wrong?