I’m reading this book for a few reasons: first, my friend Lauren recommended I read The Giver and its sequels; second, I got a new Kindle Paperwhite as an early birthday gift and I wanted to read a book on it ASAP; third, with the new Kindle I got a month of Kindle Unlimited for free and The Giver (and all three of its sequels) is a Kindle Unlimited book. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service through Amazon that’s kind of like Amazon Prime Instant Video—a large number of books, many of which no one has ever heard of, and a few gems. I’m glad that I’ve been given a good reason to read The Giver sooner than I was expecting to, because I’m enjoying it quite a lot.
I know what you’re thinking. Another dystopian young adult novel. But this, my friends, is the book that started them all. The Giver was published in 1993, close to two decades prior to The Hunger Games and the Divergent Trilogy. I remember reading a lot of Lois Lowry books when I was a kid, but I missed this one by a few years. By 1993 I was well out of the kids section of Super Crown, and spending my time in Fiction and Literature. But I know loved her earlier books, though the only one I know for sure I read is Anastasia Krupnik. Anyway. The Giver takes place in a far distant future where the populace seems to have given up its individual desires in order to conform to a peaceful, orderly ideal. Spouses are no longer chosen, they are applied for and assigned to a person. Life-long careers are determined when a person is twelve. The career is assigned by the Committee of Elders based on careful observation of the child in his or her formative years. Our protagonist, Jonas, is “an Eleven” at the start of the book, but transitions to a “Twelve” early on. In the community, babies are assigned to couples; several female children are assigned to the career of Birthmother each year, where they deliver three children in three years, and are then sent off to be Laborers until they get to go to the House of the Old, and then are “Released,” in a mysterious ceremony that our Jonas doesn’t know anything about. During the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas learns that he is to be trained as the next Receiver of Memory, a career with high prestige but little power. In fact, Jonas has never heard of the Receiver before he learns that is to be his fate.
When Jonas begins his training with the Receiver, he learns that what in order for him to become the Receiver of Memory, he has to actually, well, receive memories. And as Jonas becomes the Receiver, the current Receiver becomes the Giver (clever title, right?). And the Receiver of Memory keeps track, it seems to me, of the sum total of human history up to the point that the current system is created, so no one else has to know anything about anything unpleasant or exceedingly pleasant (for example, when a child has his or her first “stirring” of sexual desire, he/she is put on pills, one a day for the rest of his/her life, that keeps that sort of thing at bay). The Receiver keeps all of that for everyone.
Jonas is finding his new position in the community to be a lonely one. The rules of his training state that he is not allowed to discuss anything that he is learning with anyone, not even his parents or sister. Jonas is learning that his life is to be a solitary one, and I think it saddens him.
I’ve also made good progress on The Road Home since Tuesday, but I wanted to introduce The Giver because it’s what I spent all of my reading time today on. I’m looking forward to reading more about Jonas and The Giver. This dystopian world is simpler on the surface than those of Divergent and The Hunger Games, but I think it is a well-thought out one that I has depths Lowry has barely touched upon in the first half of the first book in a four-book cycle.