Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “Life in the community where Jonas lives is idyllic. Designated birthmothers produce new-children, who are assigned to appropriate family units: one male, one female, to each. Citizens are assigned their partners and their jobs. No one thinks to ask questions. Everyone obeys. The community is a precisely choreographed world without conflict, inequality, divorce, unemployment, injustice… or choice. Everyone is the same. Except Jonas. At the Ceremony of Twelve, the community’s twelve-year-olds eagerly accept their predetermined life Assignments. But Jonas is chosen for something special. He begins instruction in his life’s work with a mysterious old man known only as the Giver. Gradually Jonas learns that power lies in feelings. But when his own power is put to the test – when he must try to save someone he loves – he may not be read. Is it too soon? Or too late?”
Review: This is my second time reading The Giver; the first was in a middle school literature class as required reading. I’m pretty sure this novel was my first experience with dystopian literature. In the intervening years, I’ve read many dystopian books, but The Giver still occupies it’s own special spot in my heart because it was my introduction to a genre I’ve come to love. To me and many others, The Giver remains a classic pillar of dystopian literature. That being said, The Giver has never been one of my absolute favorite novels. As evidenced by the fact that I’ve only read it twice now, it isn’t one that I’ve thought about much or felt a need to revisit. I think my primary issue with this novel is that I don’t really grow to care about any of the characters while reading it. The books that I love (and read again and again and again) are typically ones with comprehensive world building and strong characters. While The Giver does a decent job on the former, I believe it falls short on the latter. The character I felt most empathetic towards was actually Gabe, likely because of his innocence. Don’t get me a wrong, I like Jonas as a character, but my favorite Jonas moments are typically ones that include Gabe.
“Gabe?” The newchild stirred slightly in his sleep. Jonas looked over at him. “There could be love.”
I think The Giver conveys an important message and is captivating enough to make required reading fun. I hope it stays on school reading lists, but I also believe that there are other dystopian books that are more successful when it comes to creating dynamic characters.
Reason for Ban/Challenge: The Giver has faced ban significant challenges since its publication in 1993. Indeed, Lowry is no stranger to the banned book list, with the Anastasia Krupnik series also frequently challenged. While The Giver has never broken into the top ten most frequently challenged books per decade, it has achieved positions 11 (for 1990 – 1999) and 23 (for 2000 – 2009) according to the American Library Association. An article written by Ben Blatt for Slate included the following graphic, which breaks down the most frequent reasons The Giver is challenged compared to other books. The most frequent complaint – “unsuited to age group” – likely stems from the mature themes that are explored throughout The Giver, including topics like conformity and self expression.