Imagine a society where no one can see in color - everything is monochromatic. Imagine a society where spouses are selected, children are assigned to parents, names are predetermined, and jobs are selected for its citizens. In The Giver, these decisions are the responsibility of a committee of elders. You will not find hills or snow, either: hills make transportation difficult, and snow makes the growing season shorter. Everything is perfect. There is no hunger, poverty, or war. Lois Lowry portrays her idea of a utopian society.
Jonas, the main character, is eleven years old as the story begins. When he turns twelve, he receives his Assign-ment, or occupation, as it is called. Many people have a general idea of what Assignment they will receive based upon what they have done during their mandatory service hours. Jonas, however, has volunteered in a variety of places, and has no idea. During the Ceremony of Twelve where Jonas receives his Assignment, he is shocked to find that he has been singled out to become the new Receiver. Jonas alone will receive private training from the Giver, who holds the memories of what ordinary life was like. The Giver has memories of colors, of hills and snow, and of ordinary family life. Once these memories have been transmitted, they will belong to him. After just a year as Receiver, however, Jonas can no longer bear this responsibility. A shocking discovery creates a desire to bring the community back to reality.
The Giver is a fascinating book about a fictional utopian society. It makes you realize how exciting our lives are in comparison to the boring, repetitious, and unemotional lives of the members of Jonas' community. Since you cannot miss what you never had, life for the inhabitants probably is not that bad. The Giver is definitely worth reading. I recommend it to anyone with an imaginative interest in strange new worlds.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.