I have to admit that I didn’t have plans to ever read Lois Lowry’s The Giver (1993). Even its place near the top of the Top 100 Chapter Books list (fourth!) didn’t give me any confidence that it would be a book I would enjoy. I’m not a fan of dystopias, especially those where the protagonists are children. I also am not a fan of this cover. (This could be why I ended up choosing to get the audiobook version.) However, the fact that I spent the last week making excuses to find time to listen (I did extra weeding in the yard!) will clue you in to how my feelings about this book have changed.
What it’s about: Jonas lives in a highly controlled community where families are assigned (two parents, two children — one boy, one girl), life is about rules, and free will is unknown. Jonas is turning twelve and is about to be assigned his adult job based on his personality and skills. To everyone’s surprise, rather than a standard job, he is told he will be the new Receiver. To have this job means to be set apart from everyone else, doing a job that not many understand, a job that will change his view of the entire community and its way of life.
Age level: Grades 6-8
Best part: The community seems rigid and boring at the start but the true horror of it is only slowly revealed, leaving the reader to find everything out at the same time as Jonas. It’s a very effective way of telling this story.
Worst part: The vague ending. I’m not the only one to think this either. Apparently, readers bugged Lowry for years, asking what really happened at the end. It prompted her to write three other books set in the world of The Giver, though apparently the fate of Jonas is revealed with just a brief mention.
Verdict: Buy (Borrow)
I decided to give this a weird verdict because I wanted it to count among the best books I’ve read during this project but I’m not sure that it would be one to have on a home bookshelf. I can’t imagine ever wanting to reread it. But I think it should be in every library and on lots of reading lists. It’s a thought-provoking, life-changing story.
Have you read The Giver?
The next book I’m reading is The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright. This is the second book on the list about The Melendy family (the first was The Saturdays which I liked but didn’t love). I have a feeling I’ll feel the same about this one.