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The Giver

The Giver is a 1993 American young adult dystopian novel written by Lois Lowry, set in a society which at first appears to be utopian but is revealed to be dystopian as the story progresses. In the novel, the society has taken away pain and strife by converting to "Sameness", a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. In an effort to preserve order, the society also lacks any color, climate, terrain, and a true sense of equality. The protagonist of the story, a 12-year-old boy named Jonas, is selected to inherit the position of Receiver of Memory, the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness. Jonas struggles with concepts of the new emotions and things introduced to him, and whether they are inherently good, evil, or in between, and whether it is possible to have one without the other.

The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal and has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. A 2012 survey by School Library Journal designated it as the fourth-best children's novel of all time. It has been the subject of a large body of scholarly analysis with academics considering themes of memory, religion, color, and eugenics within the novel. In Australia, Canada, and the United States, it is required on many core curriculum reading lists in middle school, but it is also frequently challenged. It ranked #11 on the American Library Association list of the most challenged books of the 1990s, ranked #23 in the 2000s, and ranked #61 in the 2010s.

The novel is the first in a loose quartet of novels known as The Giver Quartet, with three subsequent books set in the same universe: Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004), and Son (2012). In 2014, a film adaptation was released, starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Brenton Thwaites.

Watch The Giver book review:


I've taught this book to my 6th graders nine years in a row. Once I realized that the book is actually a mystery, and not the bland sci-fi adventure it seemed at first skim, I loved it more and more each time. Nine years, two classes most years... 17 TIMES. I've come to see that the book isn't the story of a depressing utopia. It's the story of the relationship between the main characters the Giver, Jonas, and... I won't say her name. And of course, the baby Gabe.

James Carroll
This book is perhaps the best refutation that I have seen in some time of a common philosophy of pain that is sometimes found in the popular media and in some versions of Buddhism. According to this philosophy, pain is the ultimate evil, and so, to eliminate pain and suffering we must give up desire, and individuality. Self is an illusion, and leads to pain; desire and agency are dangerous, so we should give them up and join the cosmic oneness "enlightenment" to find a utopia without pain. As George Lucas unfortunately has Yoda say to Anakin, "you must give up all that you fear to lose."

Lisa of Troy
Jonas is an 11-year-old boy living in what he believes is an idyllic community. Crime is low, and everyone is assigned jobs that they love. When Jonas turns 12, he will finally learn what role he is to fulfill in the community.
When I was a child, I read The Giver, and I loved it. As an adult, I read The Giver and loved it even more.

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