I decided to buy The Giver when I was at the thrift shop. I think it was only 50 cents or a dollar. I really enjoyed the movie so I wanted to read the book. The Giver is the story of a boy named Jonas who lives in a utopian society. The society believe in sameness so everyone has the same type of house, clothes, food as it’s the differences that causes conflict. In the mornings, everyone takes a little pill that helps them remain calm and compliant.
Life is set out for everyone. Children are born at the nurturing centre by official birth mothers then given to a family. The family units consist of a mother, father, boy and girl. There are no natural families where the mother and father have produced the children. Once the children grow up, the parents quit the family unit to live in the houses for childless adults. They spend the rest of the time working an assigned job until they get too old. When they grow old they live in the House of Old until they die.
The book starts off with Jonas turning twelve and nervous about what job he’ll be assigned in the future. Every child is monitored closely so that the elders know the suitable occupation for a child. Jonas is assigned a very special job. He is to be the next Receiver of Memories. The Receiver learns about the history of the community so that they can advise the council of elders when they face new problems with knowledge from the past.
Jonas meets the current Receiver who he calls the Giver. The Giver shows him memories not just from the community but life before when everyone was different. He shows Jonas the history of human civilization and concepts such as love and war. Jonas realizes that their society has given up so much for peace.
What I liked about this book was that it wasn’t set in a bleak and grimy future where there are ruined buildings and charred rubble. This book is not action packed like other books in this genre and focuses on how stifling life can be with too many rules and conformity. It was a different experience to read about a world where the people weren’t struggling and there is no secret band of rebels.
When I read this book, I was reminded to appreciate the small things in life. Jonas found the smallest things like seeing in colour and feeling the breeze ripple through the leaves on trees to be amazing. It was something he never noticed before he became the Receiver.
The book also explores typical things that people worry about when they are leaving their childhood. Jonas worries about his future occupation, keeping in touch with friends and growing feelings. In the movie, Jonas is sixteen instead of twelve. I think it would have been better if he were older in the novel as being sixteen is more a crossroad than twelve.
I found this book to be a bit philosophical and I enjoyed musing about it while I read the book. As a teacher, I want to read it aloud to a class one day to see if they will enjoy it too. I think it is a thought provoking book and I would love to have discussions about it with a class.
You can check out Jon Bear’s review of the film here.