BOOK REVIEW: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

RELEASE DAY: January 24, 2006
SERIES: The Giver, Book #1
PUBLISHER: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Random House)
FORMAT: Paperback
SOURCE: Borrowed

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.


Always on the lookout to find new reads that don’t put a dent in my pocketbook, I borrowed this book from a friend  – well, from my friend’s daughters’ bookshelf. Totally unaware of what to expect, this anti-utopian science fiction novel, The Giver by Lois Lowry is a powerful book about what is thought to be a “perfect” society.

Jonas is entering his Twelfth year in this society (no dates are given in the book, but it is assumed to be a fair distance in the future), the year where each child in their Twelfth year is assigned a job chosen for them by The Elders based on their strengths observed in their previous years. Jonas’s friends are assigned normal jobs – Director of Recreation and Caretaker of the Old – but Jonas had been chosen for something different, The Receiver of Memory.

The community is unlike anything we know today. It has reverted to “Sameness” – the concept of colour is unknown by anyone, everyone wears the same “uniforms”, and for each year of a childs’ life it is expected that they will get a certain item (such as a bicycle when one enters their Ninth Year, or a coat with buttons in the front when they enter their Fourth Year). The people of the community do not know love or happiness, nor do they know anything of pain or suffering. Rather than inflict these feelings on the entire society, it is the Receiver of Memory’s job to keep these memories for when situations come up where the society needs to be advised on how to take care of the situation.

Similar to George Orwell’s 1984, there are speaker systems throughout the community which are used as surveillance (such as keep uneaten food – something Jonas does with an apple he and his friend Asher had been playing with) or for announcements. Life is planned out for everyone and no one is capable of choice. A person in the society can apply for a spouse (who would be picked by the Elders) and then that couple can apply for children, but only a boy and a girl for each couple. It is the job of the Birthmothers to give birth to the children, but if the new children do not meet the qualifications of the community, they are “released” instead of being able to enter society.

The book is very powerful. At first it was very similar to George Orwell’s 1984 or M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, The Village. As I read on, it blew my mind how crazy this society was. I felt sorry for Jonas and the burden he would have to carry being the Receiver of Memory (ultimately carrying the memories of pain, sadness, loss, torture, etc. on his shoulders), and when he asked his “parents” if they love him (their response being that that was an absurd question seeing as they do not know of love).

I would recommend anyone who’s interested in books about dystopia to read this. Lowry’s writing is very straightforward and easy to follow, though the subject can be hard to handle at times (especially when one learns what it means to be released). However, it is a great book to teach people to be grateful for what they have and to show them how nice it is that we all ARE different – seeing as in this community birthdays aren’t singled out for people, nor are they encouraged to be different.

For a book so simply written, The Giver has so much depth that I think it stands up to other books of the genre. It is well-crafted and is sure to make an impact on any reader.


3 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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