Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 1993
Genre: Fiction, YA, Dystopia
Where I Got It: Borrowed it from my brother
My Rating: 4 stars
This was the third book I read for the RIP VI Challenge. Because I don’t want to get too far behind writing these reviews, I’m reviewing all my RIP books by answering the 5Ws―Who, What, When, Where, Why. Plus I’ve included my patented Scare-O-Meter Rating system so you can decide if you can handle the level of fright induced by the book.
Scare-O-Meter Rating: 7 screams out of 10. The horror creeps up on you slowly … just like it does to our main character, Jonas. I would liken it to a Stepford Wives kind of thing. You think you’ve landed in a perfect little world and then you get a whiff of something not quite right … and then you find out just how not right things are.
WHAT is this book about?
Jonas is an 11-year-old boy who lives in a community that prides itself on order and following the rules. Everyone in the community knows their place, and they are expected to adhere to the rules at all times. If you are a newchild, you are expected to grow and develop under the care of Nurturers (like Jonas’s father)—meeting all your milestones and expected behaviors before you are assigned to a family at your first birthday. For soon-to-be Nines (like Jonas’s sister Lily), it is an especially exciting year as you’ll get your bicycle (the primary means of transportation in the community). For soon-to-be Twelves like Jonas, the Ceremony of Twelve is critical as it gives you an Assignment—your permanent role within the community. Jonas is anxious about the upcoming Ceremony, and expresses his concerns at his family’s daily Sharing of Feelings. His parents assure him that the Council of Elders take their job of assessing the Elevens and picking their Assignments seriously. So when the Ceremony arrives and Jonas discovers his Assignment, he is shocked to discover that it is a very prestigious position within the Community—one unlike any other. This new role puts Jonas in a unique position to learn more about his community … and what he discovers changes his view of the world forever.
WHO do we meet?
- Jonas is a young boy with special abilities that put him in a unique position to learn about his community. This knowledge throws Jonas into a quandary as he must keep what he learns to himself, but what he learns causes him to question everything he’s ever known about his family, friends, school, and community.
- The Giver is Jonas’s teacher and the one who opens his eyes to the realities of their community.
WHEN and WHERE does the book take place?
The book takes place in an unspecified time and place. However, I’m assuming it is set in the future, when life as we know it has been “modified” in order to maintain order and peace.
WHY should you read this book?
This is a masterful addition to the canon of YA dystopia, and I think it does what a good dystopian book should—send chills up your spine while presenting you with an alternative world that seems like it could actually come to pass. Like Jonas, the reader slowly begins to grasp the realities of this world and exactly what has been done in the name of order and control. I loved how Lowry created this seemingly utopian world (no sickness! respect for elders! lovely weather all the time!) and then slowly turns it over to reveal its rather sinister underbelly. I read the book in one sitting, and I immediately wished I had a young adult (13 or older) to discuss it with. This is what YA dystopia books SHOULD be like. And I’m not the only one to think so. The book won the 1994 Newbery Medal (which is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children).
By the way, this is the first book in a trilogy (the other books are Gathering Blue and The Messenger), and I plan on reading them as well.
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