The Giver

I just finished the Giver by Lois Lowry, and this is what I thought.

The plot
Jonas is 11 years old. He lives in a community where everyone is indoctrinated with these intense rules. You talk about your pills, you don’t lie, you don’t fall in love, you explain your feelings at dinner, you are chosen for your job, you have your mate chosen for you, your children are chosen for you. No one is different, everything is the same, and everyone is happy, or at least content. Then one day, when the elevens become twelves, they are given an occupation, and everyone but Jonas is called. Then he is told he will be the Receiver of memory.

My thoughts
It’s sort of a staple of American middle schools, and I felt like it read very much like a children’s book. It was really good, but I’m clearly not in the demographic this is meant for. It’s very clearly for children. Which doesn’t detract, I just wish I’d read it when I was like 12.

It’s a very interesting way to tell a story. Basically what happens is that Jonas is made receiver of memory, because the people in the community can’t bear the memories of before they implemented sameness, so the Receiver of Memory carries that burden, he carries memories of winter, and wind, and sunburn, and love and everything like that. He also carries memories of pain, war, destruction, terror. He feels them as well, he can feel the pain. When Jonas starts receiving the memories we also learn of things that they don’t have in this community. Jonas starts seeing color, which no one else can see. Jonas learns about love, which no one in the community understands. He learns about sunburns and grandparents, and he doesn’t understand them right away, but he starts to understand, and it’s really interesting. With each new memory you figure out that that is something they don’t have in this world. And it’s so sad.

Jonas also learns that in the past they have choice, which he thinks is interesting, and very dangerous. Because, he asks: what happens if you choose wrong? If you’re allowed to fall in love you could choose the incorrect mate and then that would be awful. They could choose the wrong job, and it would give them emotions they can’t handle. I thought that was really fascinating.

It was really weird to see how they dealt with death. And that way is, basically, they don’t. They have this concept of release to Elsewhere. And I sat there for so long going: they’re dying, you idiot. Release happens to the old, to babies who don’t conform, and to people who have three strikes, they’ve been brought in front of the justice three times and haven’t gotten their shit together. And no one ever questions it. Jonas doesn’t question it until he is shown a release in a video. Release was very fascinating to me. I’m odd.

I also really loved the ending. It’s a bit open ended. I always like that, so I liked the end. It’s always fascinating to me when it’s not like, they lived happily ever after. The choices Jonas made have some pretty spectacular consequences, and they’re not all explored, and I’m curious. I’m not sure if they explore them in the rest of the series. So I might never know what happens with Jonas and his Community.

I liked it, I’m not in the demographic, like I mentioned, so it didn’t completely wow me. It is however impressively creepy and sort of serious dystopia for a children’s book. The concept is really impressive. So I liked it. It was cool.