The Giver offers a vision of the future that is grim and weird, but always intriguing. In books like The Hunger Games or Feed, it is easy to see how current trends lead into the strange future worlds of those stories, but The Giver is less clear. Why family and community life is so regimented and twisted in this world is never fully explained; was there a great war or the rise of a dictator or what? Also, how big is this world -- are we only reading about one city-state? Are the other communities (like the one on the other side of the river) much different than this one? These ommissions don't harm the story, as it remains highly readable and consistent, but they do muddy the waters when it comes to figuring out what inferences we should draw and what moral the story is driving at.
But hey, I loved the story, and I thought the narrator did a superb job. I plan to get the next books in this series.
The book starts slowly but depicts the utopian society well. The writing and descriptions are strong. I give the book three stars for that. But I found most of what was shocking to be predictable, and the ending was a letdown. The author didn't know how to end it, so he left it vague for the reader to figure out. Was it a dream? Was it real? Was it magic? Was it some benevolent deity? You decide. No, Mr. Author, you decide -- that's your job, not mine.
The setting is a spin on some old ideas. An Orwellian society was done in, well, 1984. The idea of society's sacrificial lamb has been explored before, such as Jackson's short story "The Lottery" which came out in 1948.
And there were huge plot holes. The author had a strong theme and point to make, which I applaud, but didn't plug the holes. I would have enjoyed this more if I wasn't constantly bothered by pesky questions.
Warning: slight spoilers...
If you buy the vague existentialism of everyone's feelings and memories being contained in one person and released violently if he/she dies, fine, but if they are so dangerous why do they leave it all up to one person? They think of everything else, so what about a backup Giver in case the one and only Giver decides to, I don't know, off himself because he can't take the suffering and isolation anymore? And seeing color is due to physical hard wiring, every mammal has it to a certain extent. You can't lose it because you can't remember what war or snow is like.
And the big one: you take a 12 year old who has not experienced suffering of any kind, then torture him every day for a year, tell him he is going to be an outcast for the rest of his life, tell him he has nothing to look forward to but a life of pain and isolation, tell him there will be no one he can talk to about it until some decades later when he is going to inflict all this on some other poor kid that he has to select himself... why are you surprised when the kid tries to escape? And I can't believe the last Receiver selected was the first since "back and back" who killed herself. This would happen every time.
And finally, where does the kid pedal his bike, for hours and weeks on end? If he was going through forest thick enough to hide from airplanes, where did he find roads to ride on?
This was a good book, though I wouldn't have chosen it had I not been required to "read" it for a children's lit. class. It was kind of creepy. Judging by our class discussions we all were given the creeps by it. However, don't let that discourage you from reading it. LOL! Like I said, it actually was a pretty decent book. I think it just stirred up a LOT of emotions in me & my classmates.
As a mother I would not choose this book for my kids until they were at least 15 or 16 though. I think you need a little bit of age behind you to handle this book in an appropriate manner. Many emotions and ideas are churned up by this book that I think requires a much older child to process them all. You will be angry, sad, disturbed, and conflicted by this book. We were all college age or older adults in my class. Almost all of us cried and all of us did have a strong emotional reaction to it. Just to reassure you, there is no sex in this book and what little violence it has is very subliminated. If you're at all curious now I would say listen for yourself & you decide. As I learned in my class discussions, everyone sees the world differently & this book has a way of revealing rather clearly just how you see it.
One of the best books ever written on the perils of too much government. The audio presentation of this book was spot on, and I enjoyed every minute of this great listen.
The scariest thing about this book is that we DO live much as the author describes. And worse than that, we want to forget OURSELVES, even before the Government orders us to. We shush our elder people when they are talking about hard times they had at war, thinking wrongly that by such an act we help them to "get over it". If we pretend that something never happened we won't eliminate the pain of the past but we will ruin the feelings of the future.
A wonderful listen from Audible.com
Victoria Evangelina Belyavskaya
School Librarian, Cybrarian, Voracious Reader and Lifelong Inquirer.
I expected "The Giver" to be a "kid's book." Technically it is, but any adult could appreciate this book. The Giver depicts a future world defined by utter conformity, which reminded me of Orwell's 1984, and had me thinking about this book for a long time. The reading level is certainly accessible to a 4th or 5th grader; but I'd recommend reading or listening to this with your kids so you can discuss and review the content. Nothing objectionable: it's just really deep, with an emphasis on thinking for oneself, with an uplifting message.
My wife has been using this book in her 8th grade language arts curriculum for several years now, but I only recently decided to give it a listen. I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. For a book that's intended to be read by young adults, it deals with some fairly mature topics but does so as eloquently as possible. Overall, I thought the story was extremely interesting, but it left too many unanswered questions in my opinion. I would have thought this was an abridged version, because I felt this story could have gone much more in depth regarding the giving and receiving, as well as the history of the community. I also would have preferred a less ambiguous ending, but I guess that's part of what makes this book great for classroom discussion and interpretation.