Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas lives in a peaceful and ordered community where everyone knows their place and follows the rules.  It is a world of sameness, of order, of clear expectations and understanding.  Jonas knows that when he becomes a Twelve he will learn what role he will play in the community as an adult, but it is an uncertain future.  Some of his year mates already have clear futures because of their volunteer hours and devotion to a certain aspect of community life, but Jonas has tried many different roles and does not know what the Elders have in mind for him.  

His fate is decided when he is designated as the Receiver of Memory, a job that has honour but no power.  Suddenly isolated from his year mates because of his future role and the rules around his training, Jonas must face his uncertain future alone.  As his training progresses Jonas learns more about his community, the world before, and about the previous Receiver of Memory who he simply calls the Giver.  His whole life Jonas has followed the rules and thought he knew what life in the community was really like, but he is about to discover that he really knows nothing and that there are things more precious than order and obedience.

I picked up The Giver because it has just been made into a movie and I wanted to see what the book was based on as movies often make huge changes to the content of the book - sometimes for the better, but often for the worst.  I was pleasantly surprised by the book and the way the story slowly grows and unfurls, presenting one picture of the community and then slowly growing through Jonas's eyes until you get to see the whole of the community and secrets at its core.  

First published in 1993, and the winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, The Giver is a real treat to read for the first time.  While it is an early example of the dystopian theme there seems to be so much more to the story - especially as we see it through the innocent eyes of Jonas.  Modern dystopian novels like the Hunger games have a young person who can clearly see that things are very wrong, or that quickly comes to see things are not right like in The testing.  Jonas is so innocent about the truths under the surface, and because his parents and the whole community are so relaxed and seemingly happy it takes a while for the truth to really sink in and that is what makes this book so powerful.

I have seen the shorts for the movie and it seems as though the big screen treatment has changed a great deal - the least of which is the apparent age of Jonas who looks much older than twelve.  There are other changes in the movie too by the looks of things and it looks as though they may be changes for the worse rather than the better.  I can't wait to read the other three books in the quartet to see what happens in the future, although from reading the blurbs it appears that the future books blend other characters into the story which has the potential to make the series better, but also runs the risk of complicating the simplicity of the story.

If you like this story then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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