After a lot of chunky books, I felt like something slim in between. And since this book has been recommended for ages and is a Newbery winner (like Lloyd Alexander, who is awesome) I thought I’d give it a try. It ended up being almost too thin a book and it made me gasp at the realisation just how blatantly some newer authors copied Lois Lowry’s ideas. More on that later…
published: Bantam. 1993
series:The Giver Quartet #1
my rating: 7,5/10
first sentence: It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.
In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.
Now this is a dystopia to my liking. Not that I’d want to live in that world, but Lois Lowry introduces us to a society – seen through 12-year-old Jonas’s eyes – that doesn’t seem at all bad. Sure, people seem a bit sheepish, but there is no war, no crime, everybody is happy with their lot. There are no racial issues, no predefined gender roles, and nobody is hungry or sick or lonely. This is how a dystopian novel should start – with a world that seems kind of alright. It is up to the reader – and the protagonist – to figure out what’s really wrong with this society and finding out more about this world and about the price the community paid to achieve this sort of peace.
Jonas was a likeable protagonist. As a 12-year-old, he is already well integrated into his society, he knows the rules (and the rules are important!) and is looking forward to learning his assignment. When it turns out he’s neither going to be a caretaker of the Old, nor a Nurterer of newchildren, nor a Labourer and – obviously – not a Birthmother, his world turns upside down. While it may be easier for grown-up readers to see the community’s problems, it was still a great and fast-paced read and I loved learning more about this future society. Lois Lowry had a few surprises up her sleeve and kept me reading until the very end.
Which brings me to the one negative point I have to mention. The ending. The book was such a fast read only to become really strenuous in the last few chapters. I understand that this is also due to the plot but I felt a little cheated. The very end was left up to the readers’ imagination a tidbit too much for my taste, though I thought it was appropriate and leaves the readers on a fitting note.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The language was simple enough for younger readers to understand but not so simple that it feels like Lois Lowry things children are iditos (you know how much I hate that). The author also has a knack for explaining words, all within the plot, to the readers, that I found quite clever. The Newbery Medal is absolutely deserved and I see why so many people adore this book that teaches about the importance of free will and memories.
Now to something I have to say: As much as I hated Allie Condie’s Matched just for its own (lack of) merits, it now becomes obvious that she simply took ideas that other writers (read: Lois Lowry) have had and blatantly used them as the main idea for her novel. I know that everything has been done before and Lowry is not the first author to bring up the idea of humans being matched by the society to live in a sort of marriage – but if you take an idea that’s well known, at least put your own spin on it. Yes, you should judge books by themselves, without comparing them to other books (even by the same author), but if anything, this beautiful little book made me hate Matched all the more. Miss Condie should have taken the writing style as an example, too.
THE GOOD: A well-written, fast-paced novel with a believable dystopian society that opens the reader’s eyes slowly to the gruesome truth.
THE BAD: I didn’t like the ending too much, but that’s really a matter of taste.
THE UGLY: Highly recommended for everybody who’s suffering from the YA dystopia craze and doesn’t feel that the mass produced trilogies people poop out recently are enough.
RATING: 7,5/10 A very good book.
- The Giver
- Gathering Blue