The Giver (The Giver Quartet, #1) by Lois Lowry
Published: August 1st 1994 by Laurel-Leaf Books
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 ben and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.
"The life where nothing was ever unexpected. or inconvenient. Or unusual. The life without colour, pain or past."
Actual rating: 3.5 stars
I have a feeling I should have read The Giver a long time ago, but since I'm not American nor is English my mother tongue, I have my excuse for waiting until reading it with the movie's release. Upon finally reading The Giver, a classic in the dystopian genre, I now understand why it's labeled that way. Forget The Hunger Games or Divergent. It's the best book out of all the dystopian novels I've ever read.
Lois Lowry clearly did a wonderful job, but especially when it comes to the world building. Already from the very first pages, I was completely drawn into Jonas's world without colour. Everything about it was incredible and fantastic and did everything most YA dystopian novels can't do in two hundred pages. While reading, I almost everything about the system and its functions, however I never felt like the information was thrown at me or that I was overwhelmed by it, and I seriously appreciated it. It was brought in a way that it was still a very exciting read. The world itself is dark and scary at times, but also intriguing. It's above all, the main reason why I loved it so much: believability. I'm not saying I actually believe the colours will fade in fifty years, or that it will be possible to transfer memories by a simple touch. Yet when reading the book, sometimes I actually believed that I was reading a book which is just a flashforward of our future. That we won't know phenomenons like snow, sunshine or even downhill. Again it is scary, but in my opinion that's what makes it so amazing. In a few words, a fascinating book, with an even more fascinating world.
While the world actually made this book so great, it's sadly not the only element that creates a book. I'm certain I'm not the only one who feels the need to discuss the ending. Honestly, I never expected it to go downhill towards the end. How surprising as it might sound, I'm not the biggest fan when it comes to endings that seemed to have come out of nowhere. Even less, open endings with a supposed symbolic meaning to it. The so-called logical explanation behind it is that it leaves things to us to interpret and be satisfied with what comes to mind. I was not at all satisfied with the way it ended, and almost all those reasons are the ones I've listed just now. It just seemed like Lowry ran out of inspiration and then created that vague ending. I'm sad to confess that it really ruined the book for me, and therefore explains the three and a half stars.
Another thing about the ending what frustrated me was Jonas in particular. What he suddenly decided to do was completely out of character. After being in his head all the time, you would expect to know the boy, more or less. Then "puberty" struck, and a YOLO moment pops up. The decision to do this was so rushed, it seemed like he barely even thought about it but did it anyway. It went against everything and everyone he cared for. Surprising, yes, but naive and stupid are clearly the key words here.
It's surprising that I have very little to say about all the characters. Maybe it was the way Jonas told the story, but for some reason all the characters besides Jonas and The Giver seemed a bit flat, but especially lacked in depth. I didn't get to know much about the characters, nor did I see much development. It was only Jonas who was a wonderful and well-developed character. There was something about his personality that made him look like just an innocent child, but he is incredibly wise for his age. He knows the difference between right and wrong, and knows when to stand up for something important. He cares for the people he loves, and his curiosity is lovable. I wished to have seen something more of Jonas's relationship with both Fiona and Archer. They get split up after the ceremony and we barely hear something from both again. I don't particularly like any of the minor characters, but little Lily has my heart.
Plot-wise, The Giver pretty much consists of two parts: a glimpse at Jonas's life before the ceremony, and the part that happens after. Even though the first part contains a lot of Jonas riding his bike and voluntary work, it also has a lot of that world building I love so dearly. The second part then consists of the exploring of the memories. It was amazing to see Jonas learn and feel, both the good and the bad. After a while I grew tired of them more quickly than I expected to, and I'm disappointed in myself that I did. After all, each memory was so perfectly described and in normal cases it's hard not to love them. As I said before, the book did went downhill towards the end.
Eventually, I was surprised by The Giver on many levels. Mostly because of the intriguing world, but also Jonas's character and the nice flow of the book created an excellent read for me. Flaws like side character's without depth or the vague ending lower the rating I first wanted to give. A shame, really.