Book Review: "The Giver" by Lois Lowry

The GiverLois Lowry’s young adult novel The Giver is a truly amazing book. Winner of the Newberry Award in 1994, The Giver tells the story of a utopian society located somewhere (somewhen?) in the future where lying is forbidden, competition is eliminated, everyone knows exactly where they belong, and death is unknown.

Or so it seems. When the main character Jonas is selected to be his community’s Receiver and enters into his apprenticeship with the old Receiver, now become the Giver, he begins to learn some uncomfortable truths about the community he lives in and the people closest to him. Instead of a perfect society, Jonas learns that the apparent perfection around him is carefully maintained by deception, secrecy, and unquestioned power.

I don’t want to give too much away — The Giver is built on suspense and revelation, and I’d hate to ruin it for anyone. Suitable for readers 10 or 11 and up, The Giver poses uncomfortable questions about what a good society and a good life are, what responsibility we have for the suffering of others, and ultimately, the nature of justice, that will prove as rewarding for adult readers as for kids.

My partner and I both read this (it took me about 4 hours) before turning it over to our 12-year old boy. He resisted at first — there were no fighter plane battles or alien invaders in it — but was hooked by the time he’d read 20 pages. Because it’s a complex book, we asked him a lot of questions along the way to make sure he was getting as much as possible out of it, and I think he did. We couldn’t get our 11-year old girl to read it, despite the assurances of the three of us that she’d like it, because her step-sister (same age) had read it last year and she wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction. Ah, sibling rivalries…

This is an A-plus read, highly recommended. You can read more about the book and its author at Lois Lowry’s website.

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