By Lowis Lowry
Series: The Giver, Book 1
My Rating: 5 Stars
I’ll admit, I read this book because the movie was coming out. It wasn’t a book that was even on my to read list until I saw a movie was being made based on it. That’s a bit sad since it won all kinds of awards and it’s been banned and challenged so many times. I am a librarian after all, so I should read it. But I’ll admit that the whole reason I read it was because it was being made into a move and I wanted to see the movie. And since I don’t like movies tainting my reaction to the book, I read the book. It was a very quick read; only taking me about 2 hours to finish with normal interruptions. The book was originally released in 1993 which just so happens to be the year before I graduated from high school. This means that while this book is now considered required reading for middle and high school students, I never had the pleasure. Too bad too because I think I would have loved studying this book as a teen. Teens have such a different perspective on the world having had such a small amount of experience living in it, and I would be very interested to know what my teen self would have gotten from this book. Unfortunately, I read this book as an adult in her late 30’s with all kinds of life experience behind me. I’m certain I reacted and interpreted quite differently than I would have 20 years earlier.
As mentioned previously this book has won all sorts of awards. Here is a list of them…
- Newbery Medal (1994)
- Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature (1994)
- School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
- Golden Duck Award for Hal Clement Award for Young Adult (1994)
- Booklist Editors’ Choice (1994)
- Garden State Book Award for Teen Fiction Grades 6-8 (1996)
- Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (1996)
- Buckeye Children’s Book Award for Grade 6-8 (1997)
- Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (1995)
- Golden Sower Award for Young Adult (1995)
- Sequoyah Book Award for YA (1996)
- Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Senior (1996)
- Horn Book Fanfare (1994)
- New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award (1997)
- Wyoming Soaring Eagle Nominee (1996)
- Regina Medal (1994),William Allen White Award (1996)
- Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Nominee (1996)
But one cannot talk of the vast achievements of this book without mentioning the flip side of the coin. This book, as well as two more book in the series, Gathering Blue and Messenger, have been deemed by the American Library Association as some of the most banned books in the 1990’s and it continues to be challenged today. For a discussion of what this book has been banned for go here: http://bannedbooks.world.edu/2011/03/27/banned-books-awareness-giver-lois-lowry/.
The Giver is the story about a utopian society where crime, poverty and discrimination have been eliminated from society. At age 12 each child is selected for a vocation based on their personality and gifts. Jonas is selected as the next Receiver or Memories. This is truly an honor since there is only one Receiver of Memories at any given time. Once selected, Jonas is to begin his training immediately and the rules about his training go against everything he has ever been taught. But soon Jonas learns that the strange, recluse of a man that is to be is trainer, the Giver, knows more about their Community than Jonas could have ever imagined. As Jonas begins studying with the Giver, he learns that to be the Receiver of Memories is to know the truth of their past and the truth about their society no matter how painful or terrifying.
Surprisingly, this was a pretty dense book for as short as it was. And it’s incredibly powerful. It’s not surprising that this book is challenged so often. It is a complete and utter challenge to the dangers of loss of freedom, individuality and your ability to make your own choices in life. “Sameness” is how it’s referred to in the book and it’s scary to consider. The lack of color in their society, the lack of affection and elimination of what we would call family create a world that reminded me of robots. There is no individual thought or uniqueness within the society. It’s appalling. Thinking back to the way I might have thought about this book when I was 18, I wonder what I would have thought about the lack of these types of things in this society. Having been able to have all of these things my entire life, I wonder what students who have to wear uniforms think of this book. Do they connect in ways that students who have the freedom to express themselves through clothing do? I wonder.
This is definitely a powerful book that makes you consider what it means to be free and individual in the world. It makes you think about whether you could give up all those things for the elimination of crime, poverty and famine? Would it be worth it? Would be worth it to allow the government to preside over the majority of your life if you were healthy and taken care of? I’m not certain it would be worth it. Definitely a conversation worth having.
Overall, this was a great read. I’m glad I took the time to read it before I watched the movie. The movie took some liberties that I understood, but they ultimately kept the overall feel of the book. Even if you watched the movie, you should take the time to read the book. You won’t regret it.