Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Genre: Young adult
Publisher, Year: Bantam Books, 1993
Other Works: Number the Stars
Flags: Teen angst
Rating: A or Great Read
Challenge: DystopYA
Premise: A young boy in a perfect society finds his life is not as simple as he thought.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for some time and finally got a chance to as part of the DystopYA Challenge, hosted by Books on the Nightstand. I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would, but I feel like this is a book that could stand for re-readings in the future.

Jonas lives in a perfect community. One that is defined by fairness—a place devoid of pain and fear. The rules that govern this society cultivate the best environment for growth and development as a whole. All decisions are taken care of and every person’s life is set out in front of them, step by step, defined by what is best for everyone. And the people live in a state of unperturbed content. That is until Jonas receives his Assignment--the job he'll perform as part of the community. He's been given a position of great honor, but of also great responsibility. And as he works his way through training, he realizes new things about his perfect life that makes him question everything he's been taught. +/-

I think children are very capable of understanding the importance of such things like individuality and freedom of choice. Although these topics can be heavy, in my opinion, Lowry's bold move to approach these topics in a children’s novel was and is something needed. It encourages critical thinking about life in a new way from an altered perspective. I loved how a part of this perfect society was that there was no color, no music. The pallor of life when all choices have been made and emotions are irrelevant. It’s exactly as I would have imagined it myself—it made sense to me. That without certain things, our existence as human beings would change drastically: our relationships with each other, our feelings toward our occupations, our very nature.

For Jonas, the knowledge he gains not only makes him think and makes him question, it moves him to act. It compels him to change--to risk everything for a belief. If I'm being honest, sometimes that scares me. Because if someone is allowed to act on good and right beliefs, then that also gives rise to extremists or fanatics who are equally as passionate and who can inflict pain. But I think that's an important point in Lowry's work. You can't have one without the other--when you pick up one end of the stick, you can't help but pick up the opposite end. And so the question remains: if you could live happily in ignorance, closing your eyes to unpleasant things, could you? Would you? Or would it be too difficult, once you knew the truth, to go back and close your eyes as before?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The compare and contrast of the needs of the collective and the individual was an interesting one for me, and I enjoyed this more simplified look at a dystopia. It’s one I will definitely recommend.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Both of my boys read this years ago but I never thought to pick it up myself. I wonder if I still have it around here somewhere...