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February 19, 2016

Book Review || The Giver by Lois Lowry

Reading 'The Giver' by Lois Lowry was a delightful treat for me. It is a young adult novel that has depth and meaning beyond the usual animal and magic stories, and I can see why the novel has achieved so many honours in the literary world.

Set in the future, Jonas is living what appears to be a perfect life in a utopia-like community free of war and strife. The community in which he lives is perfectly controlled and runs like a well-oiled engine: everyone and everything has its place and the individual does not exist. Indeed, the Elders choose everything, from spousal members to babies to occupations to meals. Jonas has reached the final ceremony indicating his entry into the near-adult world as a Twelve, where the Elders reveal the occupation they have chosen for him. But Jonas has the ability to 'see beyond' and he is selected to be the new Receiver of Memory.

What is this mysterious role? Jonas, who up until now believed he had experienced pain, family, and contentment, is introduced to depths of emotions he could never have fathomed until now. However, he experiences them alone, with only the Giver as a guide. Holding the memories is meant to give him wisdom, but Jonas' wisdom comes far sooner than it had for the Giver and he realises the society in which he lives is in fact antiutopian and far from perfect. He decides things have to change.

'The Giver' at the heart is a novel about ignorance and knowledge, and freedom of choice and individuality.

When Jonas is given the truth about life and death, and the emotions that come with being alive, he sees the community as cold and ignorant, killing toddlers and old people when the Elders deem their time has come, endeavouring for sameness at the loss of individuality, creativity, beauty. The ignorance that comes from having no knowledge of the truth leads Jonas to despise the world he is living in - a world that has no idea of the depth of emotion and the beauty that exists. The knowledge Jonas gains gives him wisdom but he does not believe that a single person should be the only one with access to this knowledge and its resulting wisdom.

While the community is happy in the humdrum order of their days, Jonas realises that they have never known true happiness - they have never lived.

The book raises the question of whether the masses should be controlled to avoid the inevitable grief, fear, pain, and lust that comes with living, or whether we would choose to really live instead.

The ending was sad for me. Spoiler ahead: It is a point of contention amongst fans of the book that the ending somehow represents Jonas and Gabriel's deaths at the end. Just as they reach the pinnacle of their journey, experiencing real snow for the first time, finding happiness, finding family, finding love, the book ends. But if this is the case, at least Jonas was really alive for the first time and I hope that death is so sweet for all of us despite the pain that has come before.

Have you read the novel? Comment and let me know what you thought!

Keep an eye on the blog for a comparison of the novel and film coming soon!