Julie's Reviews > The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry
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Oct 12, 09

bookshelves: teaching
Read in March, 2008

I think I'm missing something. Everyone loves this book and I liked it too, but it wasn't amazing or anything.

The Giver felt like a very sparse story to me. First, there isn't much characterization, so I didn't form an emotional connection with any of the characters -- not even with Jonas or the Giver (two central characters). Asher and Fiona (particularly Fiona) are introduced such that you assume they will play greater roles in the book than they do. I don't feel like I knew Mom or Dad or Lily at all. While the lack of an emotional bond with these lesser characters may be due to the nature of their community, Jonas and the Giver should really be more sympathetic, in my opinion.

Second, the description of the community itself is sparse. There is so much more that could've been described about this "utopian" community. I feel like Jonas' selection, his revelation about Release, and his eventual choice could've been built up and framed better. I feel like I got the quick campfire version.

Finally, while I appreciate it's overall message about the importance of individual differences, human emotion, etc., I felt like the book was a bit heavy-handed with its moral. Jonas' initial support of his community and gradual change of heart seems intended to present both viewpoints, but doesn't succeed in my opinion. The book's agenda was clear to me from the beginning. It also doesn't present alternative possibilities (such as a world without Sameness but also without war, a world without Release but also without starvation, etc.) -- the choice is either here (with Sameness and no color) or Elsewhere (with pain and suffering).

When teaching the book, I also felt it was very important for students to understand how this heavy-handed moral (that most of us would agree with somewhat) demonstrates Lowry's (and our own) privilege. That is, the reason it's easy for us to say that Jonas' community is horrible is because of our own relatively privileged lives. If we lived in Darfur, were extremely impoverished, lived in a country where women were treated as property, etc., we may make a very different choice about Jonas' life.

Despite all of this, believe it or not, I did like The Giver. It's an enjoyable read. It had a great plot, the community was interesting, and the ending was fantastic and JUST a little ambiguous -- cool!
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Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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Bailey I really liked The Giver but if your reading this book you definitly need to talk with someone who has read it before, because it can get confusing sometimes


Julie Bailey wrote: "I really liked The Giver but if your reading this book you definitly need to talk with someone who has read it before, because it can get confusing sometimes"

Hi Bailey, did you mean to post this as a reply, or as your own review? If you want to review a book, click on the title of the book in your book list and then next to the word "review," click "edit." Type your review there.


Margaret You have absolutely nailed the way I felt about The Giver 100%.


Serene I feel the same way I just felt lik I missed some chapters or something it was confusing and it just ended


Karma Julie, I found your review of The Giver interesting. I feel like the lack of character and community development was meant to represent how little there was there to develop. Everything and everyone was the same. No one really had any feelings and they all basically lived in a black and white world without colors, music, weather, etc.

Your point about the author not giving alternate possibilities is a really good one. Maybe she meant for those possibilities to exist in Elsewhere? If so, those possibilities wouldn't be known to Jonas (or anyone else in the community) since nobody would have been allowed to leave and come back. The community would never have accepted anyone back into the community because that would have disturbed the sameness. I'm guess that the ending of the book was meant to hint that there was another way, but the author leaves it up to the reader to decide.

I totally agree with you that it is easy for us to say that Jonas's community was horrible because we live in a very privileged society. I imagine it would look very different to those who live in third-world countries or places where human rights are regularly violated.

Thanks for giving such an interesting and thought-provoking review!


Anonymousity I agree with you for the most part, but I did not enjoy this book at all. It irks me how people constantly compare dystopian novels to this. It makes no sense! There are better novels to read that have the same morals in them, and ones that relate more to students. Surely you see how some of your students are confused by the heaviness of this novel, but at the same time the writing and characters are designed for them. This is a book written for young children with the themes of a young adult book. It just clashes.


Jason I guess I can understand why you don't like it, unlike Mr. 'Kelsey' three comments up. It's an okay book, but why I, and many others, feel it is so brilliant, is because we saw the underlying message that resonated so powerfully and provocatively inside our hearts. Its a good message really-- read it one or two more times, and I think you'll see it and appreciate it more. :)


LaLasha The detachment from the parents, siblings, school mates is part of the point of the book it showing how eugenics, over industrislism, the need for everyone to be different but the same it illistraits how crazy things could have gotten had say the Nazis won. parent child bonding isn't incouraged. In this society you are supposed to learn specific steps to fit this socity follows an old Japanese saying to the tee "the nail that stick up must be pounded down"


Hanna[h] Cumberbatch that's kind of the point... it's about a world without emotion... i still loved it though=)


Julie Jason wrote: "I guess I can understand why you don't like it, unlike Mr. 'Kelsey' three comments up. It's an okay book, but why I, and many others, feel it is so brilliant, is because we saw the underlying messa..."

Ha, I don't think the problem is that I didn't see the underlying message -- it would be extremely hard to, uh, miss. It's not "underlying" so much as pounding you over the head.


message 11: by Mandy (last edited Jul 12, 2011 02:11PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mandy Julie you summed up my feelings about this book 100% I can add no more other than to say yes I too liked the book but was left feeling...was that it? but what about the and then??


message 12: by Jack (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jack You should read 1984. It's a lot better


Julie Jack wrote: "You should read 1984. It's a lot better"

I started it but then didn't finish -- I'll have to give it another go.


Victoria If you read the sequels to this it ALL makes sense in the last book. Everything comes together very nicely. Although I will warn you that if you choose this route the 2nd book is a completely different story that doesn't really fit with the first one until the last book when both society's and stories come together as one. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this book! It's my favorite book of all time! I love the mystery in this series and the society Jonas ends up creating.


Julie Victoria wrote: "If you read the sequels to this it ALL makes sense in the last book. Everything comes together very nicely. Although I will warn you that if you choose this route the 2nd book is a completely diffe..."

I enjoyed it -- just not to the same extent others did :) Regarding the sequel, do you mean Gathering Blue? I read it but I liked The Giver more.


message 16: by Victoria (last edited Oct 12, 2011 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Victoria Gathering Blue and Messenger. Messenger is the book that brings it all together. To be honest though Lowry's writing isn't as intriguing to me in the sequels as in The Giver. Her writing style tends to not climax until the last few chapters of her books and that becomes very apparent in the sequels.


message 17: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily I am glad you wrote this, I was having trouble articulating my feelings about this book and you did so perfectly. Thank you~ I totally agree with you on all points.


message 18: by Zeek (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zeek Zinger I agree to disagree


Tammy I loved it. I can't be biased about it-I haven't read any of the sequels yet. I just read it, and somehow, everything makes perfect sense!


message 20: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam I think the loving of the book depends on the first time you read it and where you are in your life at that time. The first time I read the book was in 5th grade and I found I could really relate to Jonas. The concepts at that age was nothing I had considered before and I fell in love with the book. I have re-read the book many times sense then and it sort of seems like returning to some old friends but I wonder if my love of the book would have been so great if I had read it first as an adult. I think after reading some other books and the utopia concept not being something brand new to me I would have enjoyed the book but not been as obsessed with it as I am.


Julie Sam wrote: "I think the loving of the book depends on the first time you read it and where you are in your life at that time. The first time I read the book was in 5th grade and I found I could really relate t..."

That makes sense to me. I did read it first as an adult.


Cecelia I enjoyed the book. I just didn't care much for the incomplete ending. I did wonder how an entire community could not FEEL anything. I guess they were never taught feelings, but, weird how you can extinguish children without feeling any kind of regret.


Leigh Ann Thank you for this thoughtful review. I particularly liked your discussion of your approach to teaching the book (re: Darfur). The false dichotomies set up in the book should definitely be acknowledged, although I, like you, ultimately liked The Giver. :)


Antonia thank you for the review - you describe quite exactly what I thought after reading (but was not able to express).


Mariana Brennan I understand what you mean. The same thing happened to me. Everyone was like, "this book is amazing!" And I'm just like, "it's okay I guess." I didn't like mostly because I couldn't connect with the characters and they story seemed so bleak. X


message 26: by Mali (new)

Mali I think Lowry did very little description purposefully. I took this book to be very poetic, and I liked how she left a lot up to your imagination.
Also, I think Fiona and Asher were introduced as bigger characters in the beginning because Jonas thought they were going to be big characters in his life. After he is chosen as the Receiver of Memory, their role in his life diminishes, as does their role in the story. I don't know, I always read that as part of the jarring change Jonas's life takes during the selection.


Beckie I am reading this now. I am 44% done and still waiting for something to happen. Jonas just met The Receiver, so hopefully things pick up; but I am nearly half-way through, so not expecting much. After reading the first two chapters, I had a vibe along the lines of The City of Ember/The Village/Gattaca.


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