The Giver ★★★★★
Houghton Mifflin, 1993
“It’s the choosing that’s important, isn’t it?”~The Giver
I always thought of Lois Lowry’s The Giver as the little book that could. Written almost like a parable, its deceptively simple story delivers some heavy, reverberating hits. I consider this little book to be a significant contribution to the genre, ranked right up there with such dystopian classics as Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and Soylent Green. I love it because of its simplicity and accessibility; it’s the perfect way to introduce younger readers (especially reluctant younger readers) to some pretty powerful themes.
It’s a book that can only generate discussion and debate amongst the young and young at heart on the importance of personal choice. You fight for it. You don’t ever let it be taken from you. Sameness, calmness, serenity… these may sound like lofty goals, comforting words, but they should never come at the cost of the individual’s right to explore, question, challenge, choose.
Some readers may be left unsatisfied by the ambiguous ending; I have to admit, first time reading it I was a little frustrated. But like any good parable, the ending is probably the best launching off point to a passionate debate of “what-ifs” “maybes” and “for sures”. Other readers might be put off by Lowry’s lack of detailed world-building; this is a teensy book – a long short story really – and with such a small canvas there really isn’t room for answers, mostly questions. There is a lot we don’t know – the how and why this community came to be. But the mystery inspires some addictive speculation, especially in the context of other dystopian tales which surely influenced Lowry here.
The Giver is a chilling bedtime story, as good at warning us and teaching us a lesson, as it is at entertaining us. That’s a magnificent book that can do those things all at once.