Rummanah Aasi
 I couldn't remember whether or not I had read Lowry's The Giver before Book Banned Week. I have heard a lot about the book and its premise. I read the first chapter of the book in hopes that I could recall any details about the book, but I quickly realized that I actually read the book before. The Giver received the Newberry award and is currently in the process of becoming a movie.

Description: Jonah lives in a perfect world where there is no pain, hunger, or war. Children receive parents and their names are given by their society. At the age of twelve years old, each child is assigned a job for life. Jonah receives the honor as being his society's Receiver of memories. He must work along with the Giver, who currently secures the memories of many years. At first Jonah is both scared and excited about his job, that is until he learns about the truth and there is no turning back.

Why it was banned/challenged: In 2003, The Giver was challenged as a suggested reading for eighth-grade students in Blue Springs, Mo. Parents called the book “lewd” and “twisted” and pleaded for it to be tossed out of the district. The book was reviewed by two committees and recommended
for retention, but the controversy continues in 2005. And in 2006, the book was also challenged, but retained at the Unified School District 345 Elementary School Library in Seaman, Kansas. Source: ALA 2005 and ALA 2006

Review: The Giver is a very deceptive book. The language and plot of the book are very simple, however, the ideas and themes behind the book are very complex. As I started the novel, Jonah's world seemed safe and warm. Of course with many dystopias, the future seems perfect because the main character(s) are not aware of the past and/or what has led to their current state. The novel becomes much darker when Jonah begins his training with the Giver. Only after learning about the past and the truths about his society in a year, Jonah no longer wishes to live in his community and wishes to leave. How he leaves and whether or not he succeeds is the remaining story of The Giver.
  I really enjoyed this book. The plot, pacing, and characters were great. The writing is fabulous. I loved how Jonah's questions and his reactions to the Giver's answers mirrored my own. The novel challenges the reader to think about the extremities of how far we are willing to deal with happiness at the risk of being in pain. Should sameness take over individual freedom as a precaution of living in peace? And what I found more striking is: how do we use the past to guide us to do better in the future? As you can see The Giver is an excellent choice for a book discussion. Due to its darker themes I can understand why parents would be apprehensive in letting their children read it; however, that decision alone seems to be what Lowry is fighting against in her novel. Children should not be completely sheltered by the dark side of society. Like everything else there should be a balance of both good and evil or the bad and good side of life.
  The only reason why I gave the book 4.5 stars instead of 5 is because of the abrupt ending. I wanted the ending to be more flushed out. I still had many questions left. I would have liked to see what happens to Jonah. I know there are two other books in what seems to be a trilogy, but I would have liked this book to stand on its own. Overall, an excellent book and highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing scenes that may be too much for children below 4th grade. Recommended to 4th graders and up.

If you like this book try: Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, The Messenger by Lois Lowry, or Matched by Ally Condie
5 Responses
  1. Jules Says:

    I've reviewed this book multiple times for book clubs. It's religious applications also make it good for discussion. It's definitely the kind of book you feel you need to talk about with someone when you're done.

    The thing I found most interesting in my research was Lowery said herself about the ending in her acceptance speech for the Newbery Award. I've personally always thought it a bit of a cop-out when an author leaves the ending vague so that the reader can finish the story with details from their own imagination, so I wasn't surprised when Lowery said she's gotten so much mail about The Giver's ending. She said many people have given her their ideas of how they thought the book "really" ended. *spoiler alert* What really surprised me was that children and teens proposed endings that were fantastic and varied, but all hopeful. Adults almost universally assumed the characters simply died. Whether or not they "liked" the book seemed to be dictated by how they filled in the details of the ending.

    Lowery said many fascinating things about her own life that clearly shaped the writing of this book including living over-seas and riding her bike between her own Americanized community and those of local boys and girls her own age. One of those "other" kids turned out to be special significance the night she gave the acceptance speech.

    Here's the link to the whole acceptance speech:

  2. I completely agree with your review! I love Lois Lowry and just picked up another one today at the library for my kids-- Gooney Bird Greene

    Have you read the next book Gathering Blue? I am going to start it when I finish the few others I have going... :)

  3. Thanks for the heads up, Loveland! I was a bit surprised to see the two extreme reactions of the book. You can read Lowry's reaction in this interview:

    Natalie: I plan on reading "Gathering Blue" soon, but I'm trying to finish my tbr pile right now.

  4. Nat Says:

    I loved this book too, although I completely agree w/you about the ending. Gathering Blue is a little different story, then The Messenger gives us more insight into Jacob's world. Love the series!

  5. Awesome review. This is one of my favorites too. And you're right it is rather deceptive. I really must try her other books.

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