Jonas, an eleven-almost-twelve-year-old boy lives in the Community with his father, mother, and younger sister Lily. It is a planned utopian society governed by Sameness, with no war, fear, or pain, but also no choices. The weather is perfectly controlled, no hills exist, no live animals are seen, and there is even no color or music. At age twelve, all people are assigned their roles in the community. The old, young children who do not thrive, and even those who rebel are "released." Jonas is singled out to receive special training from the Receiver, who alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life and now becomes "the Giver," so that Jonas can be trained as the new Receiver. Jonas's father is a nurturer and the family has been caring for a newborn named Gabriel who is not thriving, so the decision is eventually made that the infant will be released. Now that he has received the truth, how will Jonas react when he learns what it really means to be released? And what will he do?
The Giver is well-written and quite interesting to read. However, to be truthful, I really did not care for it. And I think that my reaction basically involves the issue of age-appropriateness. The book is said to be written on an age nine to eleven reading level and is usually listed as being for age twelve and above, so it was apparently aimed at middle-grade students. However, I noticed that the Random House edition which I read is found in their "Teens" section, and others have recommended it basically for upper grades. There may be some value in the book for high school students to consider the consequences of a controlled society where people give up freedom for safety. However, there are certain aspects of the story-the infanticide, the euthanasia, and some rather oblique sexual references-which I think are just too heavy and thus are not appropriate for younger readers.
Also, the ending is rather odd. Whether it is happy or not I guess all depends on the eye of the beholder. Is The Giver a horrific book? Not necessarily, although it has some things horrible to contemplate in it. Is it a useful book? Perhaps, under certain circumstances. Is it a good book? Each person will have to make up his or her own mind on that question. I do agree with the assessment that it is "For mature audiences, as there is an episode of euthanasia. The story questions values we take for granted. Caution, and probably pre-reading recommended." There are three "companion" novels--Gathering Blue, Messenger, and now Son.show more
by Wayne S. Walker