The community allows no pain or fear; war or sorrow. Jonas thinks he lives in the perfect world, and is eager to receive his assigned role when he turns twelve. When his time comes Jonas is apprenticed to the Giver, the only person who knows how things really are. As Jonas learns the truth his whole life changes, and he can never go back.
Sissy: I chose The Giver by Lois Lowry as my Friday Favorite (actually the whole Giver trilogy) because it is a beautifully written, thought-provoking story that, although it may seem heavier and more philosophical than our usual fare, manages to give us relationships, magic, and plenty of imagination as well. Bubby does not agree with this pick, but what she doesn’t know is that I’m also going to fight to review Lowry’s much newer finale to this (now) quartet. Originally published in 1993, the Giver is the much-loved dystopian tale of sacrifice and redemption. I’m excited to read the newest book, “The Son,” to see how the story wraps up. Hopefully happily so Bubby won’t be annoying and “I told you so”-ing.
Bubby: Well, Sissy, you sure have an opinion today! Wow! O.K. Let me start by saying that I have read The Giver numerous times over the years and i do agree that it is a moving, beautifully written story. However, it’s not exactly what I would qualify as a relaxing, calgon-take-me-away-moment type of book. It’s heavy stuff – lots of weighty issues and thought-provoking moral dilemmas. In fact, many school libraries across the country have had to pull this book off their shelves because parents feel that it is inappropriate for children of any age to read. I do not approve of censorship like that but I do agree that this is a book for older kids and adults and it will bring up some questions that may be hard to answer.
Sissy: It is also required reading at some schools, and I consider that the “good” kind of required reading, like Pride and Prejudice, not unbearable required reading like most everything else. I don’t know–sue me, but I thought everyone read The Giver. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that every bibliophile who hasn’t read it is a complete moron (because that would be extremely rude and inappropriate), I will say “read it, ya moron!” No, just kidding–I would say hey–give it a try (smile, smile).
Bubby: The most interesting part of The Giver for me is the question of personal freedom. What freedoms are you willing to give up in order to have peace? To have wealth? Or health? How far would you go? Is it ok to deny others their freedoms and rights so that you can enjoy yours? And what effect does that have on your humanity? Since Sissy is jumping out of our comfort zone today, I’ll do the same. I have just finished A Memory of Light – the last book in Robert Jordan’s epic series The Wheel of Time. Many of these same issues are discussed in this series. Specifically, it raises the question of whether it is possible to have true happiness, true joy, without having sorrow and pain and grief. I think that the answer is no. I believe that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but I also believe that unless you have experienced the bad times it is impossible to recognize the good.
Sissy: Our main character, Jonas, goes from believing that he lives in a happy utopia to realizing that, just as Bubby explains above, this happiness is false, because one cannot experience true happiness without contrasting feelings, and without freedom of choice. This is a clear message, thoughtfully woven into fiction, that all people about 6th grade and up should be able to grasp and appreciate.
Bubby: I would make it a little older, maybe 7th or 8th grade simply because of the infanticide and similar adult issues. I am not saying that The Giver is a bad book. It is a great book. You just have to be in the right frame of mind and know what to expect. I would compare it to WonderBread versus homemade whole wheat – one is light and fluffy and has little nutritional value, but it’s easy to digest. The other is dense and hearty with lots of good stuff but it’s a bit harder to chew. Both are good in their own way. I enjoyed The Giver but at this particular point in my life I need more WonderBread and less whole wheat. Because of that, I am giving it only 4 bubbles.
Sissy: Some days I feel like that too, but other days I want to rant and rave and write letters to my legislators and fix things that are wrong in the world. My kids all read The Giver by Lois Lowry in the 5th and 6th grades and survived–no budding sociopaths in the lot! I give this book 4.5 bubbles.
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