Guys, THIS BOOK. I wish someone would have told me sooner. I wish I would have been forced to read it in school. Gah. It’s just so beautiful and sad and thoughtful and just ALL THE THINGS. I just want to call up Lois Lowry and tell her how thankful I am for this book. Honestly, it’s a life changer.
Jonas is about to enter his Twelfth year. Every year there are two days of ceremony in which the children are moved from one year to the next. Their first year they are assigned to a family unit. This will consist of a Mother and a Father matched together, and perhaps an older sibling. Each family is assigned one boy and one girl. Every year, the children gain another portion of independence. At year 9, they receive bicycles, which will be their main mode of transport in the community. At ten, they have their hair cut. At Twelve, they are given their assignment. They may be assigned as laborers, nurturers, teachers, etc. Jonas expects that he will be assigned to one of these mundane jobs, where he will live out his days until he becomes an elder, and then he will be released. However, Jonas’s number is skipped during the ceremony and he is saved for last. Finally, the Elder (reminds me of Across the Universe), announces that Jonas has been chosen to be the new Receiver and as such he will be trained by the old receiver. This is an assignment of much respect and honor within the community but Jonas has no idea what that means.
What Jonas comes to learn is that there is a lot more to life than Sameness. When he meets the Receiver, it is explained that Jonas will become the keeper of the memories. He becomes the Giver of Memories. Not just of his own memories, but the world’s memories. An entire universe of memories. Just…imagine the weight of that. It is then that I realized how clever Lowry was with her writing. Throughout this first portion of the novel, it never crossed my mind just how carefully words were used. There is no mention of color just paleness and darkness. There is no heightened sense of emotion. They do not say love. They say proud, they say they enjoy your presence. Not until the passage about the color red, did my brain comprehend just how black and white Jonas’s world was.
I’m right, then,” The Giver said, “You’re beginning to see the color red.”
The Giver sighed, “How to explain this? Once, back in the time of the memories, everything had a shape and a size, the way things still do, but they also had a quality called color.
“There were a lot of colors, and one of them was called red. That’s the one you are starting to see. Your friend Fiona has red hair – quite distinctive, actually; I’ve noticed it before. When you mentioned Fiona’s hair, it was the clue that told me you were probably beginning to see the color red.”
That passage and the rest of the book really made me think…how would you describe a color to a person who has no concept or understanding of what color is. Our lives are filled with color and Jonas’s is completely devoid. Not only is there no color but there is no suffering, which sounds wonderful – don’t we all want a world with no suffering? However, just as there is no suffering, there is no love, there is no joy, there is no family. Sure, there is a unit, a Mother, a Father, and Brother and Sister…but none of them are connected in the way that our families are. There is no common thread of love, binding them together, and when the parents become to old to contribute to the community they are sent to the home for the Elders and eventually released.
The release is mentioned very early on, but reverently. I think Jonas actually believes that they just allow you to walk out of the community into some wonderful place where you live out the rest of your days in peace. However, he questions that when he learns that some babies are released and that his Dad as a nurturer must release them. He wonders if someone waits in the Elsewhere, ready to take the child into the beyond. When his father takes in a newchild to their home for special attention, Jonas unwittingly becomes attached and is distressed to learn that it is possible that Gabriel will be released. When his father tells of how he must release one of a set of twins (because that would be too many newchildren for one generation), he goes to the Giver and asks about what happens when one is released.
After receiving a year’s worth of memories, and the knowledge of what actually happens upon release, Jonas knows that he cannot continue to be a part of this Community. There is so much more! Yes there is pain, and grief and loss and unbearable sadness, but there is also sunshine, and colors, and music and beauty all around. They are missing it! With the Giver’s help he formulates a plan to escape, to give back all of the memories the Giver has imbibed him with and leave them with the Community. To show them what life can truly be. Jonas’s father tells him that Gabriel will have to be released, he is too fussy and incapable of being trained into monotony. On this news, Jonas must act early and quickly, taking sweet Gabriel with him. And he runs, he runs until he comes to bitter cold and snow, and then he knows, the Giver has led him all the way to freedom.
Just imagine a world of black and whites. Sure there is no hate, no fear, no pain, no war…but there is nothing else either. If any book makes you feel incredibly grateful and in awe of the world we live in, it is this one. It makes you question a world where our every move is watched by the Government, where every choice is dictated for us. It does not do it in the harsh and thrilling way in which books like Divergent, or the Hunger Games do. It does it with subtlety and grace. The reader becomes so immersed in this community that you actually think for a moment, “Well, this isn’t so bad. Everyone is so nice and calm and honest. Nobody yells or hurts each other. Everyone is equal.” It is a beautiful thought, until that moment when the Giver gives Jonas the memory of red. It is at that turning point that everything turns to dust. Gray, bland, monotone dust. And you feel suffocated by it, because shouldn’t it be a choice who you love, and not an assignment? Shouldn’t you bear your children of your own self and raise them as you see fit? Shouldn’t you be able to experience the beauty of the sun on your skin, the grass between your toes and the varying and vibrant colors of nature? I mean for goodness sake they don’t even have kittens or puppies! I mean, I can’t get behind a world without puppies.
If you have not read this book…you need to. I see now why it is a classic, and I am only sorry I did not give it a chance sooner.
Overall Goodreads Rating: 4.11
My Goodreads Rating: 5
Number of 1-star Reviews: 8,219 …why, why would you give this book 1-star?