Strangely enough, I had never read The Giver, which is a book practically everyone and their uncle read in middle school, until this past summer. It seemed to be one of those books that remained permanently on my “Books To Read” list, but I would seemingly always find a book I wanted to read more. Also, I tend to be one of those people who reads books after everyone else, and the best example is I am just now reading the Harry Potter series. In my generation, that’s practically a Class Three felony. Anyway, for anyone who, like me, has never read The Giver, or has and is simply curious about my opinion for whatever reason, here’s my opinion on the story.
Our protagonist in The Giver is a 12 year old boy named Jonas, who lives in this uptopia known only as the society. In this world, pain and suffering has been eliminated by removing many of the citizens’ emotions and leaving only the most basic feelings such as happiness, anger, fear, etc. They are also only given a select few words to say, making it harder for them to express themselves, and don’t live with their birth parents as they live with an assigned family.
Every year until they are 12, the children have ceremonies where they celebrate a rite of passage. Their actual birthdays are unknown, and instead age on the same day as all of the other children. On a child’s 12th ceremony, they are given their work assignments.
During Jonas’ ceremony, he learns that he has been assigned to be The Giver. The Giver is a mysterious figure in the society, and is rarely seen by people. Jonas is trained by an Obi-Wan Kenobi/Gandalf/Dumbledore figure, who shows him what being the Giver really means, and Jonas learns more than what he ever could have imagined.
I wasn’t surprised by how much I genuinely enjoyed this book. It’s practically a modern classic, and it’s a dystopian society. I have read a number of different futurisitc books, because they’re probably my favorite, and I can say that they do have a tendency to fall into the same tropes, especially modern dystopia books.
While this book does have the same “a nobody plucked out of a crowd for a bigger destiny” story line, I feel like that’s where the comparisons stop. I can’t say too much without giving away part of the story. The plot is so imaginative and is really thought provoking for a children’s book. It makes you question whether or not people’s knowledge and self expression is worth all of the pain and suffering in the world, much like George Orwell’s 1984.
The Giver also has the same feeling of 1984, where it doesn’t need to have constant action and drama to keep the reader’s attention. Instead, it uses societal and existential questions that will keep you reading just so you can see if everything turns out the way it should.
Jonas is actually quite an interesting character, who I was able to relate to despite him being five years younger than me. He thought he knew everything about the world, then out of nowhere this knowledge is cancelled out by completely new information that he could have never imagined.
The other characters can seem a bit a bland at times, most namely the supporting cast, but they were written that way on purpose. These people don’t have interesting motivations or feelings because they’ve been taught since birth to simply live as the society tells you until you die. That’s it.
Overall, I would highly recommend this story to any reader, no matter what the age. The writing at times can seem a bit too simplistic, but keep in mind that this book was originally written for kids around the ages of 10 and 13.
Otherwise, the storyline is fantastic, Jonas is a fascinating character to follow, and the entire world is very imaginative.