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The Giver, by Lois Lowry

14 May

2002 edition, Random House Children’s Books, ISBN 978-0440237686

Plot Summary: In the dystopian future, there is no more war, disease, or poverty. There are no choices, either – in 12-year old Jonas’s community, spouses are assigned to one another, children are assigned to families, and children’s milestones are pre-selected and celebrated once a year. At age seven, they receive jackets that button in the front. At the age of nine, they receive bicycles. At the age of 12, they attend the Ceremony of Twelve, where they are assigned their careers. Jonas, who has been experiencing feelings that has made him feel different from his peers, is assigned to be the Receiver of Memory – the sole repository for the collective memories of the community. He begins to work with the outgoing Receiver, now called The Giver, to receive the memories and learns disturbing truths through both the memories and the truths he begins to see in his daily life in the village. The Giver is often mentioned as being the first in a 3-book series that includes Gathering Blue and Messenger.

Critical Evaluation: The Giver is one of those books that stays with you, changing the way you think about things. What price is a group willing to pay to live in a perfect, ordered society? Jonas, in receiving memories, plays the part of Adam in the Garden of Eden – he receives knowledge, and with knowledge comes confusion. Is his community right because they don’t know better? He begins to question everything around him and everything he’s ever known; when he sees his father commit an act in the course of his daily work that he finds unspeakable, the last vestiges of what he believes in are thrown into chaos. The Giver is one of the most challenged books books in middle schools across America, usually for its portrayal of euthanasia (but also for what has been considered a sexual reference). Regardless of its challenges, it remains a popular and important middle-school book that speaks to the power of free will and choice.
 
Reviews:School Library Journal:”The author makes real abstract concepts, such as the meaning of a life in which there are virtually no choices to be made and no experiences with deep feelings. This tightly plotted story and its believable characters will stay with readers for a long time.”
 
The ALAN Review: “Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, Lowry’s thought-provoking fantasy challenges adolescents to explore important social and political issues. The Giver engages the reader in an equally inspiring victory over totalitarian inhumanity.”
 
Awards: Newbery Medal (1994); William Allen White Award (1996); American Librarian Association (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults; ALA Notable Children’s Book; Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book; Regina Medal (1994); Booklist Editor’s Choice; School LIbrary Journal Best Book of the Year.
 
Reader’s Annotation: Jonas lives in a world without pain or war – or love, or color. When he is selected to receive his community’s memories from The Giver, he learns far more about his society than he ever wanted to know.
 
Author Information: Lois Lowry is an award-winning YA author; she has received numerous awards, including two Newbery medals (for The Giver and Number the Stars). Her website lists all of the awards she’s won in addition to offering book information, a biography, her blog, her photos, and copies of her speeches.
 
Genre: Science fiction. Subgenre: dystopian; families.
 
Booktalking Ideas: To live in a world without war, poverty, or pain, would you trade emotions like love? Would you trade color, or the opportunity to make your own choices in life, like what to do for a living or who to marry? While most of the people in Jonas’ community do not realize what they’re missing, Jonas does when he receives communal memories from The Giver. Would you rather not know what life was like before the changes?
 
Reading Level/Interest Age: 12-17
 
Challenge Issues/Defense: Euthanasia. Mild sexuality. Defense: This book is a depiction of a post-apocalyptic society, where choices have been taken away in favor of having a utopian community. Jonas’ feelings of sexuality are biological and normal, and not exaggerated in the book. Criminals, the elderly, and infants depicted are further illustrations of how wrong this society really is.
 
Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?

I read this book with my son a year ago and loved it; I wanted to revisit it.

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