Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Book #81: The Giver
Somehow during my middle school career I missed out on reading this classic by Lois Lowry: The Giver. However, after reading it I'm glad that I read it for the first time as an adult, rather than an ignorant fifth or sixth grade student. I don't think that young middle school students are at the level of understanding that this book requires. Though they can understand the language, this as one of the earlier dystopian novels is better for older middle school readers, even high school and adult readers. While some people that I've talked to remember hating the novel as a child, as an adult, I thought it was wonderful.
I didn't know much about the novel before beginning it. I just remembered some of my peers reading it when I was young, and that there was an old man on the cover. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a dystopian novel, from way before The Hunger Games was thought of. It presents the society first as a seemingly utopian one, where everything is perfect and everyone is content. The society has become less and less diverse, and proclaims "Sameness", which erases basically all emotion and individuality. People seem robotic, apologizing for wrongdoings in a specific way with a robotic forgiveness automatically given. Families share their dreams each morning, dissecting one another's dreams until everything is rationalized. Each year for twelve years, children partake in a ceremony in which they are acknowledged as being one year older and receive something to show everyone that they are a specific age. For example, one reaching a certain year, children receive bicycles.
Jonas is reaching his twelfth year, in which he will be assigned the job that will define his adult life. He isn't sure what he wants to do or where he will be assigned, but he is shocked to learn that he will be the next Receiver. This is a job that is chosen very rarely, because there is only one Receiver at a time, and a new one is hard to choose because it is a demanding job that requires specific traits in a person. Jonas goes to train with the current Receiver who will be retiring once Jonas is ready to take over. He asks Jonas to call him "The Giver", and he begins to share with Jonas with secrets and burdens of their "utopia." His training is not easy, and it makes Jonas wonder about why the world is the way it is, and what happened to all of the things that the Giver shares with him, such as feelings, especially love, and other parts of the way life once was.
This novel was a quick read and a fantastic one! Though dystopian literature has exploded since The Hunger Games, this novel was published in the early 1990s, and Lowry was probably one of the founders of many of the ideas present in current dystopian lit, even in The Hunger Games. The idea of this society is fascinating, and he parts of our current lives that this futuristic society as chosen to do away with are interesting to consider. Can you imagine life without feeling? No love or hate, not even the feelings of being hot or cold. The Giver presents a strange community that is supposedly perfect, but in fact they seem to be living in ignorance, which is only questioned by Jonas and the Giver. The ideas are deep, yet the novel reads quickly and isn't difficult at all. Whether you read this novel as a kid or, like me, missed out, give it a try, whether it'll be your first or second time reading it. It's a wonderful, well-written novel that really made me think. From what I've heard, there are three subsequent novels after this, the most recent having just been published, but be aware that they are not sequels, but companion novels. This means, as far as I know, that you won't see Jonas after this novel. But I still plan on reading the other novels, and I'll be sure to share what I think. Happy reading!
What I'm reading now...
1. White Swan, Black Swan: Stories by Adrienne Sharp (short stories)
2. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (YA science fiction - sequel to The Maze Runner)