Rather like Maniac Magee, but even worse, I read The Giver back when I first started trying to review all the Newbery books, then didn’t write the review right away. And in the intervening two years(!) life intervened, we spent 8 months in Lebanon, and I didn’t even write in this blog for a year and a half. Unfortunately, I did not like The Giver well enough to reread it, so this review will have to be based upon my lingering impressions of the book I completed way back on April 28, 2006.
The Plot and My Thoughts
The Giver takes place in a world which has an air to it of being our own in the not-too-distant future. Life is very peaceful and ordered and, in fact, highly regimented. Children are assigned their life’s work as they reach the age of twelve and begin an apprenticeship in whatever role they’ve been slotted into. Emotions are highly controlled via indoctrination in the home and school and aided by the use of pharmeceuticals. No one ever questions the way things are and anyone who deviates from this norm may find themselves “Released” from society, whether they’re a baby, a child or an adult.
Our Hero finds himself assigned a special role when he becomes twelve, as he is to become the next person in the settlement who will be the recepticle for all the extremes of emotion and memory which the rest of the people have decided not to deal with. By placing this burden on just one person, everyone else is able to live ripple-free, pale lives. Our Hero and the position’s current incumbent do not like this state of affairs, so they make a plan to force the emotions and memories back on everyone else — if Our Hero were to leave, there would be no place else for all of this information to go but back into the general public.
All is going along spiffingly until Our Hero discovers that the baby his family has been taking care of is going to be put down for being too fussy, and he decides to hare off on his own to rescue it.
As intended, I’m sure, this book left me feeling uneasy and queasy, and that was before I had a child. Its themes make it a favorite for reconsideration: it was recently challenged in our local school system as being inappropriate for elementary students. I also found out that the author returned to this world in two further novels, which slightly mitigates one of my complaints — the ending is too ambiguous. Overall, it’s not my cup of tea, but it dealt with some disturbing themes in a non-boring way. I would also consider it one of the rare science fiction entries in the Newbery list. 7/10.