Book Review of the Month:
(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction – Dystopian
Title: The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1)
Author: Lois Lowry
Length: 225 pages
Publication: 1993 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
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.
‘The Giver’ is written in third person limited with the single character being Jonas. He is roughly eleven years old at the beginning of the novel and turns twelve at some point before the end of the novel. Even with his young age, he speaks in an eloquent, meticulous fashion. It comes across as if the book were following an older character, yet the questions asked by Jonas in the book are very much those of a teenager trying to find their way in the world.
Pacing: The pace of this novel is quite slow due the methodical way in which it’s written and because of how the MC, Jonas, explains his life. It also has a great deal of world-building. Such an approach to writing a book will inevitably slow down the novel quite a bit because there are so many details that need to be added. However, this is one of those novels where such a pace works. The slow pace is necessary to understand the world in which Jonas lives and to understand the changes and the struggles he undergoes later on in the book. It’s for compare and contrast’s sake. All in all. It works. I like it.
World: One word: dystopian. The world of ‘The Giver’ is a purely, and perfectly, dystopian world that works extremely well. Generally dystopian worlds come off as cliches, but this world did not. While everything is regulated and sameness is required to keep the people complacent, it doesn’t come across as an overbearing, all-consuming concept. The citizens are happy. The fact that the society hides all of its general cruelty behind the common practices of day-to-day life makes the darkness imperceptible. Don’t get me wrong. The society is cruel and corrupt, but it still shows compassion and care for the citizens, lessening the stereotypical Big Brother government.
Character: Jonas is around eleven years old, turning twelve during the novel. As such it would be expected to read from a child’s point of view. However, the world in which Jonas lives allows him, or rather forces him, to mature quite quickly. After all, the ceremony of twelve is when the children become adults and must start training in their professions for a life after school, which is much earlier than we’re used to in society nowadays. That being said, he speaks with an adult’s wisdom. His words are carefully planned out and he explains the world with great deal, allowing the reader to truly see what he sees and understand how he feels, made easy by the way he constantly analyzes his feelings. (Another important part of this world.)
Plot: The plot is both cliché and not of the Dystopian genre. It’s cliché because it focuses on a corrupt society where one child is selected from a pool to take on a great task and inevitably learns of the corruption and wants to find a way to destroy it. It even has a very cliché ending. Even with all of the clichés, the novel works so well. The clichés don’t grate on the reader, but enhance the novel and the world because the novel handles the clichés in a way that’s not glaringly obvious or overbearing.
Though, I must say that some parts were a little difficult to read based on the fact that Jonas did not yet know how to feel, as is natural for their society. Unfortunately, such an element left the book with a very standoffish tone. It made it hard to become invested in the characters, especially since nothing was remotely at stake throughout a good portion of the book. That is until Jonas is chosen to be the next Receiver for his community.
While apprehensive about the new task and the life set out before him Jonas accepts all of the memories from The Giver with ease, forcing himself back day after day. His sense of duty is strong, even if the rest of the feelings he becomes acquainted with throughout the book are not. At least, to me they weren’t. I felt this sense of disconnect with him even as he explained all of the memories and the emotions associated with them. The only emotion I ever truly felt was his concern for his fellow community members. Again this comes from his sense of duty to the community and it’s this devotion to the people which forces him to run away so that all of the members of the community will receive the memories once again, so that they may actually feel things as he has. It’s in the moments before he leaves that we truly see Jonas as the child that he truly is: when he pleads with The Giver to go with him.
The ending of the book is the most cliché part of the entire book, but it works. The ending, not giving us an answer of whether Jonas truly finds Elsewhere, or whether he even survives, is the best part. It leaves the reader with so many questions. It leaves them with this hope that he made it without blatantly stating that he made it to Elsewhere, that there is another civilization outside of the community, that the community he left has managed to cope with their new memories. It’s a cliffhanger without the drop-off feeling of a book ending. It’s for this reason that I accept the ending of this book fully and wholeheartedly in spite of it being a cliché, which means I need to find the other three books in the series to see how they incorporate the clichés into this Dystopian world. For now, though, I leave this book, ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry with my rating of four stars.