Ok, this is sort of a cheating memory post because I haven’t read this book before, but it is a book that was very popular during my childhood and which I probably should have read back then. But somehow I was the only child of my generation who did not have to read The Giver in school or who did not read it for fun. I do remember people telling me I needed to read this book and that it was awesome. I am, however, ridiculously leery of partaking in anything that everyone agrees is awesome (see also: Inception, The Help, Downton Abbey, etc.) because it might turn out that these things are like red velvet cupcakes or Jeffrey Eugenides or stainless steel appliances. That is, that I might not understand why people like these things SO MUCH and I can recognize that they are not bad, but under no circumstances are they as amazing as people seem to claim. Anyways, after nearly twenty years of absurdly refusing to read The Giver, I picked it up at the used book store on a particularly long browsing expedition.
The Giver is not a red velvet cupcake. The Giver is more like a 75 degree sunny day. Everyone loves it and I actually agree with them.
Caution: I am going to spoiler my way through this one, seeing as I am pretty sure most people have read it by now.
This book was always described to me as being about a boy who sees color in a black and white world. I always thought that sounded like a stupid premise. That is, however, a very simplistic description of the plot of the book. The color thing is only part of the larger story of how life’s highs are accompanied by its lows and that the only life worth living is one that is both wonderful and painful. Our main character, Jonas, lives in a pain-free, choice-free world. It is, on the surface, a mostly decent world. There are not really any highs or lows to make life particularly pleasant, but no one ever feels pain and feelings of anger or disappointment are always smoothed over quickly. Jonas, however, is special. He is chosen be the town’s new Receiver, the person who will carry all the pleasant and painful memories of the history of the world for his civilization. These memories are transmitted to him by the titular character, the Giver. From the Giver’s memories, Jonas learns about beauty, emotion, physical and psychological pain, grief, and death. Jonas finds it very difficult to continue living the lies of his black and white society. In the end he does the unthinkable– he makes the choice to leave town to seek a new, unknown, possibly painful, possibly love-filled life. Such a hopeful little book.
The Giver is definitely written to a youthful audience, but addresses some mature themes in an age-appropriate way and would be be perfect discussion fodder for the kiddos. And yes, 6th grade English teacher, I should have heeded your recommendations and read more of the books on your special shelf, like this one, instead of all those Little House spinoff books.
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