The Giver, though categorized as a Young Adult Novel, is definitely a must-read for all. It starts off in a Utopian world where everything is well organized and everybody is “safe”. I really loved how the book took off. You just blend into that world. Every little detail makes it such a nice place on the surface. But you as a reader, who has read before and has not experienced utopia, know it very well that is just the surface.
The book’s protagonist – Jonas is a young boy, who is about to move into his 12th year; along with others who were born in the same year. This year is special for Jonas as the 12th year marks the entrance into adulthood for him. After the ceremony, his age will not matter and he will be put into a profession that will be his for life. He will be contributing to the community by being trained in that profession. The profession, in fact, is chosen for all the 12th years. This is done by a group of “Elders”. The Elders have been observing all the young boys and girls for their qualities and are hence aware what is best for each one of the children and hence the community.
As the plot progresses, Jonas instead of being handed a profession is selected as the Receiver. This is where the plot twists from a utopia into dystopia. Jonas being the new Receiver is to be trained by the current Receiver. A Receiver is a person who takes in all the memories of the long past. He stores memories that have been passed onto him from the Receiver before and to him from the one before that; and so on. The Receiver stays alone and is the only one allowed access to books because he is so alone. Because he can feel the emotions that everyone else in this Utopian world is trained and genetically modified not to feel.
The current Receiver passes on the memories he has of Jonas through a ceremony of touch. The memories are simple ones as a sunny day, as a sail on a boat; which the current set of people do not know. Jonas is then fed with tougher painful memories involving hatred, bloodshed, war etc. The Receiver is important to the world because he is the only one who knows what mistakes were committed in the past by humans and hence is the only wise man to be referred to in case something goes wrong.
The book brilliantly twists and turns from then on into a very fast-paced book. It makes one realize how every world has a good side and a bad. That there is so much bliss in ignorance and in not knowing and so much loneliness for those who know. The book’s set up is going to stay with me for a very long time. It has all the right ingredients that I love in a book. It has dystopia, it has orderliness in the society and it has loneliness in a crowd and it is futuristic. But most of all it has a journey too. The book has a travel towards the end – of which I will not give the details to ensure that the book is not spoilt for you. And it has a journey of moving from ignorance towards bliss. A special mention of the way family in a Utopian world is organized. And the question that should removal of pain be our ultimate aim?
The book should be read by everyone and is a very quick and short read (about 200 pages). The book gets a 5 on 5 from me. I love Lois Lowry’s style of writing. It is simple (that is why it is categorized as a children’s book). Yet simplicity does not mean it lacks depth.