When I think about my middle school reading lists, I think about boring books on history and war, and being told what and how much to read during summer vacation. Even if a book on the list really was good, everyone always hated it because we had no choice in the matter and were forced to read it! And, of course, at age 12, anything an adult tells you to do is uncool, especially if that person is a teacher. But as I was finishing up The Hunger Games trilogy, I kept thinking to myself “I feel like I have read something similar to this before.” And the strangest thing was that I remembered enjoying it…secretly, of course. What 7th grader wants to admit to liking the book on the school reading list? Well, that familiar book turned out to be Lois Lowry’s The Giver.
I decided to revisit this book, in hopes that my literary appreciation has matured since the time of Tamagotchis and *NSYNC (by the way, what’s up with the “*”? Really, is that necessary?) and downloaded it for a bargain on my new Kindle Fire (review coming soon!) When searching for the book, I came to find out it is actually part of a trilogy! Who knew? After beginning my second shot at The Giver I quickly remembered why I enjoyed it so much, and this time around I have a much deeper appreciation and understanding of the storyline and underlying issues and themes.
The Giver follows 11-year old Jonas as he matures through his perfect community set sometime in the future. Jonas’ world is very different from ours today. Life is always fine, people are always content, and things always go the way they have been mapped out. Families are referred to as “family units” into which children are not biologically born, but rather matched with and placed so that each unit is perfectly balanced with a mother, father, son, and daughter. As children grow up in the community, they go through a new rite of passage each year, gaining more responsibilities, an outward sign of their maturation. This year, as he becomes a 12, Jonas will receive his occupation and begin training toward his new career. Jonas wonders what he will be given, with thoughts of working in child care, teaching, recreation, and even at the senior center. But the one thing he never expects is the role that he is given: Receiver.
The job of the Receiver is to learn all of the memories of past, in order to preserve the history of the community and surrounding world. Jonas collects these memories from the former Receiver, now known as The Giver, who is too old to continue his job for much longer. But as Jonas continues to learn more and more about the past and the reality of his community, he must face the question of what is more important: this perfect world, or the truth?
The Giver is a quick, enjoyable read, and maybe better suited for adults, rather than 12-year old children who may not see past the surface and into the depths of this book. The second book in the trilogy is Gathering Blue and the third, Messenger. All great reads. Very separate from one another, but you eventually understand how they all tie together at the very end.
I thoroughly enjoyed my second experience with this story and promise that if you liked books like The Hunger Games and things dealing with secrets of futuristic worlds, you will like it too. Not exactly “chick-lit,” but an excellent, engaging read, nonetheless–one that I could not pass up raving about!