Written by: Lois Lowry
Publication Info: 1993, Houghton Mifflin Company; Paperback edition 1999, Bantam Books
One Line: In a “utopian” society in which everything is tightly controlled and everyone knows their place, Jonas is selected for special training from The Giver, and he receives memories about the past that change everything in the present.
Brief Plot Summary: Jonas is nearing his Ceremony of 12, which is when all of the 12-year-olds in his society will be assigned their lifetime roles in the community. In his society, everyone is nearly the same: language is controlled, assigned positions are fulfilled, feelings are told every night and dreams every morning. Marriage partners are assigned and given children when they reach the age of one – there are actually women assigned to be birth mothers. Babies who are problematic are “released” from society, as is anyone who breaks the rules, and the old, although the old are released in a special ceremony. It is considered a failure to be released before this. Jonas wonders what his assignment will be, and he also wonders about the newchild his father has brought home. His father works raising the newchildren, and this one wasn’t assigned a family because it wouldn’t sleep through the night, but his father received extra time to work with the child and is now bringing the baby home every night. When Jonas is finally assigned to a position, he is shocked: he will be the new Receiver of Memories, of which there is only one at a time. The old receiver, now The Giver, will train him, and
Thoughts: A Newbery Award Winner and classic science fiction dystopian novel for children, The Giver is also an excellent novel for young adults, especially those interested in dystopian fiction. Although the reading level is probably middle-grade, this could actually make it a great choice for older teens who are struggling with reading. The protagonist is young, but the themes are not simplistic. The book’s main theme is that freedom is important, and that one shouldn’t sacrifice freedom and individuality for the sake of security. Conformity can lead to a lack of ability to see clearly, as is the case with most of the residents of Jonas’ community. Jonas, The Giver, and Gabriel the NewChild all have strange, light eyes, and they all seem to be able to see in a different way than others. “Seeing” in the book does not just refer to what one visually sees – although there is a great secret about the community that is revealed in the middle of the book – but to what one recognizes as truth. Jonas, before he can see the world clearly, thinks that “release” just means being let go from the community, which no one would want because the community is great. As the memories of the old world are revealed to him – pleasure, pain, love, suffering – he begins to see his own world more clearly and question things more, and learns that “release” is actually something terrible, especially for Gabriel. For the reader, the story, told in third person from Jonas’ point of view, unfolds in a similar way: at first, we only see a portion of this world – in fact, not really understanding what it is at all – and gradually, new layers are added and new understanding emerges.
The importance of memory, and of the inability to have happiness without suffering, are also themes. In this world, no one experiences love – in fact, they start giving the kids pills at puberty so they do not develop sexual feelings. When Jonas is given memories, he understands what he is being denied. The author clearly feels that it is not worth sacrificing freedom for security, and that abolishing pain would not be worth it if we could not experience true pleasure, but readers are invited to make their own conclusions.
Author Information: From www.randomhouse.com/kids/pdf/authorbioloislowry.pdf: “Whether she’s writing comedy, adventure, or poignant, powerful drama—from Attaboy, Sam! and Anastasia Krupnik to Number the Stars and The Giver — Lois Lowry’s appeal is as broad as her subject matter and as deep as her desire to affect an eager generation of readers.
Lois Lowry has written over 30 books for young adults and is a two-time Newbery Medal winner, for
Number the Stars and The Giver. In 2007, Lois Lowry was named the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award winner for her lifetime contribution to literature for young adults.
Lois Lowry was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and attended junior high school in Tokyo, Japan. Her father was a dentist for the U.S. Army and his job entailed a lot of traveling. Lowry still likes to travel.
At the age of 17, Lowry attended Brown University and majored in writing. She left school at 19, got married, and had four children before her 25th birthday. After some time, she returned to college and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Maine.
Lois Lowry didn’t start writing professionally until she was in her mid-30s. Now she spends time writing every single day. Before she begins writing a book, she usually knows the beginning and end of her story. When she’s not writing, Lowry enjoys gardening during the spring and summer and knitting during the winter. One of her other hobbies is photography, and her own photos grace the covers of
Number the Stars, The Giver, and Gathering Blue.
Lois Lowry has four children and two grandchildren. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For more information on Lois Lowry, visit www.loislowry.com."