Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is the first book that I've read in Bart of Bart's Bookshelf YA Dystopian Reading Challenge. It is also one out of three books I got in a set written by Lois Lowry. How they are connected, I don't know yet. In fact, I hesitated at first calling this one dystopian, since Jonas, main protagonist of The Giver, doesn't live in a dystopian world. He lives in a utopian world.

In Jonas' world everything is in complete order. You know exactly how to speak correct language, rudeness is forbidden by law, lying is forbidden, families are put together through careful planning and matchmaking, work is put into a system where all know how, when and where to work and there are no outsiders. All are equal, all are same. They share sameness. At the age of 12 you are an adult and this is where you begin your training to become a scientist, nurse, speaker, lawyer, garderner, laborer or whatever your assigned field of work is going to be.

We meet Jonas and his friends of the 11-group shortly before their year 12 year (everyone has a birthday on the same day, although after 12, this is no longer celebrated) Jonas is looking forward to reach the group of 12 and become and adult, and he wonders what his assignment is going to be. He is in for a surprise, when he is singled out as the new Receiver of Memory for the community he lives in. And this is where the dystopian element enters the story. Jonas discovers that everything and everyone does not have to share sameness, and the consequences of this are huge when he realises that there used to be another world. Question is, will he be able to continue his life is this "Utopia" of his or must he move towards a truer world?

I have read that another of Lois Lowry books deal with the opposite of Jonas' world, where a new protagonist (this time a girl) grows up in Dystopia as opposed to Jonas' Utopia. I am looking forward to read that one, although I wasn't quite as taken with The Giver as I have been with some of the other YA dystopian I've read recently. Sure it was thought provoking, but it did not really get to me. I didn't hate it though, and will definitely read more by Lois Lowry.

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12 comments:

reviewsbylola said...

I first read The Giver as a teenager and it quickly became one of my favorite books ever!

Louise said...

Thanks for your comment. I am sure this would feel stronger if I had read it as a teenager. I still liked it, no doubt, but I think I had expected something else.

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

I used to love Lois Lowry's books, but haven't read them in a long time. This sounds like an interesting challenge!

Just wanted to thank you for stopping by on Saturday for the Read A Thon. Your comments helped out this first time read a thoner out a lot!

Beth F said...

I haven't read Lowry yet, but I've heard such good things. Your review has me curious about the trilogy -- next time I'm at the library, I'll take a look.

Rebecca Reid said...

I would have to disagree: a world without true freedom is a dystopia, not a utopia. I honestly believe it would be impossible to have a true utopia.

I loved The Giver when I was a kid. Time for a revisit! Thanks for the review.

Dorte H said...

I can see some people would call this utopia, but I agree with Rebecca. Also because ´sameness´ must be extremely boring. I love diversity, especially meeting different people!

heidenkind said...

I'm pretty sure I read The Giver at some point in my teen years, but I remember next to nothing about it. So I guess it didn't affect me that much, either.

Louise said...

Oh, but I definitely agree, Rebecca and Dorte, but the reader does not know all this until she has read a couple of pages. Also without spoiling the plot too much, neither does the inhabitants of "Utopia". Of course the whole idea of sameness (and everything else we are told about this community) is dystopian, for us, as onlookers. So, in the beginning, the author's aim is not set out to describe Dystopia, but the opposite. What makes it thought provoking though is, that this "Utopia" where all are equal and where everything on the surface is good and peaceful and in order, is not so good after all. Something Jonas discovers pretty fast after becoming the new Receiver of Memories. But that does not happen until halfway through the book.

Andi said...

This is one I kinda love to hate. That is, I teach it in a Children's Lit course for college students (education majors), and I love it because there's a LOT to discuss, but on the other hand I don't love it so much personally. The contradictions and academical stuff to pick apart is always a good time but otherwise--meh! I need to read the rest of the series myself.

bermudaonion said...

I've never read this book, but my son really loved it!

Care said...

I think it's like that I enjoyed it so much is because I had zero idea of what it was about. and this is my my review is so short - I hate to spoil even an inkling. But I can talk more freely here, yes? SPOILERS! I had written my review and was looking for my cover art to pull in and I saw one that is sepia tone with a bright red apple? If I had read that version, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much because I was so impressed with the explanation/intro to color in the story that I was just floored that I hadn't figured it out!

celi.a said...

I'm going to agree with those who said that they felt it was a powerful book partly because they had no idea it was supposed to be a dystopian novel. I remember being genuinely shocked when the story's twist was revealed. And somehow I made it to my 20s without having read any spoilers for this, so it can be done...

Glad you liked the book, even if it wasn't the best dystopian read on your list. Enjoy the rest of the challenge items!