mark monday's Reviews > The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
131922
's review
Mar 23, 12

bookshelves: kidworld, after-the-fall

ATTENTION CITIZENS! OUR BROTHER COMMUNITY OF SAMENESS HAS FALLEN! DOUBLEPLUS UNGOOD! BUT DO NOT FEAR! OUR REVOLUTIONARY RHETORIC AND UTOPIC IDEALS REMAIN SACROSANCT! IN OUR BROTHER COMMUNITIES OF OCEANIA, ANIMAL FARM, PANEM, THX 1138-VILLE, AND FAHRENHEIT 451 TOWNSHIP! AND SPREADING FURTHER! DOUBLEPLUS GOOD!

brief synopsis: at some point far in the future, an 11-year old boy named Jonas comes of age in an unnamed utopic community. coming of age means he is given his life's work; in Jonas' case, he is chosen to be The Receiver. he is given memories of all that came before and the responsibility of advising his community by accessing those memories. and as he takes in those memories, he gradually comes to realize that his idyllic little community is not so utopic after all.

do you remember the first time you realized that other people had their own lives - ones entirely apart from you, that have nothing to do with you whatsoever? i do. my cousin Christie - who i had a sizable crush on - was talking about what she had done in the days before. it slowly dawned on me that there were things that happened when i was not around, things that were important and interesting and had nothing whatsoever to do with me. i remember looking around the room and seeing the adults, and realizing that they too did not just disappear when they weren't in my presence. and then, in a flash, understanding that they had their own feelings and thoughts and plans that were just as important to them as mine were to me. i suppose it was my first exposure to the idea of empathy, of seeing people living lives in parallel to mine - rather than just in connection to mine - and feeling feelings that i felt, but had nothing to do with me. it was a startling realization for a budding young sociopath.

all of the above came back to me when reading The Giver. my favorite parts of this children's book were those points where young Jonas puts himself in other's shoes, tries to understand the motivations of his friends & family & community, angrily rejects the choices that some make, and experiences empathetic connections with The Giver (whose job he is taking over) - his failed but brave predecessor, and the baby Gabriel. i thought those parts were genuinely thrilling, sometimes painful, and often beautiful in their simplicity.

and yet the concept of empathy is not really what The Giver is about. simply put, it is a perhaps rather familiar tale of the importance of Individuality and of Individual Choice. i have absolutely no problem with that message... i just don't have a whole lot to say on the topic. seems like a no-brainer to me.

The Giver accomplishes its goals with ease. the prose is simple and straightforward and clear. the narrative moves from the depiction of a rather pleasant and happy community to the portrait of a community that is horrifying in its blind need for pleasant happiness for all. because the reader quickly realizes that not everything is perfect in perfectville, there was an overall tone of slowly building unease that was expertly handled. whether it is wondering about what "Release" truly means, the reappropriation of the word "animal" to mean a "foolish person", or worrying about the eventual fate of the infant Gabriel, Lois Lowry weaves in her troubling undercurrents in a way that is understated and yet still manages to pack an emotional punch. i did not feel manipulated. all in all, this is a striking novel for kids, one with an important message, and i am happy it is required reading in many schools.

it is also a surprisingly controversial novel. the complaints seem to boil down to three major concerns:

(1) The Giver is either too sophisticated for children or too unsophisticated for adults

(2) The Giver does not stand up to literary criticism; The Giver has constant lapses into illogic

(3) The Giver is anti-socialist propaganda

okay, i was going to spend some time (and who knows how many boring paragraphs) in attempting to refute all of those criticisms, point by point. eh, who cares. people will always have their opinions. my major response right now is OH, GIVE ME A BREAK, THAT IS SUCH BULLSHIT. i did not see illogic in The Giver; i saw a pleasingly straightforward morality tale, a fable of sorts. i think this is a book that kids can easily handle and to think otherwise is to think little of a kid's capacity for understanding. as far as being too unsophisticated for adults or not standing up to literary criticism, honestly all i can do is yawn at such trite and trifling accusations. and regarding the novel being anti-socialist propaganda... i just have to roll my eyes and yawn again. the timeless message of The Giver certainly moves it beyond any pointed crique of any particular style of government. seriously... duh. stop hatin', haters. don't get it twisted. if you want something to hate, exert yourself over Ayn Rand instead - who takes a similar message and perverts it until the message about individuality becomes abhorrent and disgusting. unlike the atrocious Fountainhead, the message here is a pure one.

and that's that. this is a great book. if they haven't read it already, give it to the kids in your life; i know i will.

one last thing: The Giver reminded me a lot of the equally wonderful Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron. read that one too, it's awesome.
111 likes · Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Giver.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-50 of 61) (61 new)


message 1: by Kay (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kay One of the best YA books, IMO.


message 2: by Eric (new)

Eric Sutter I can give this to you. My brother gave it to me, as it's his favorite book. Of course, he's only read two books.


mark monday okay, that was 2 days ago! where is it! if you put it on my desk, i'll love you forever.


message 4: by Barry (new)

Barry I always shied away from this book because it just had the look, the vibe, of being "just another" tawdry, overwrought, depressing and preachy book about..

...then as I got older, I had to ask myself, "yes? Book about...WHAT, exactly?" I realized recently that I never actually knew anything about it.

More recently, with my immersions into speculative fiction, this book became more and more apparent as something to pay attention to. So let me ask: just what the heck IS it about, and why is it good?


mark monday very interesting Barry. it's funny, i've just recently come across this book while it seems to have been on everybody else's radar (like yours) for a while now.

anyway, my review (and synopsis) to come. hopefully sometime today or tomorrow. and yes, i thought it was good. a good kid's book. 4-star Good!


Francine I really enjoyed this book but I was (am?) a little hesitant about reading the other 2 in the series.


mark monday i was looking them over the other day. they don't seem to be really connected, except thematically. perhaps each book portrays a particular kind of dystopia or false utopia? i added the second book in the series.


Francine That's what I thought too, until someone mentioned that Jonas shows up in the third book and everything ties in together nicely. Let me know how it goes!


[Name Redacted] I actually think "Anthem" does an excellent job of summing up all of Ayn Rand's philosophical points in a single novella. She does it in much less space than even "The Giver"!


message 10: by mark (last edited Mar 16, 2012 01:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Ian wrote: "I actually think "Anthem" does an excellent job of summing up all of Ayn Rand's philosophical points in a single novella..."

i think that one got on my radar because of an interesting point you made about it in another book's thread. if i ever decide to tackle Ayn Rand again (unlikely as that may be), that will be where i go. just the other day i finally made the decision to drop off the still-unread Atlas Shrugged to my work's donation shelf. it had been staring me down for literally 2 decades. i had enough!

hopefully i am not mixing up my Ians. you are one of 3 high-quality Ians i've come across in GR, so you'll have to forgive me if i confused you with someone else.


message 11: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Scott wrote: "... children cannot handle real, complex thought processes. It just isn't true. Unless the vocabulary is just too difficult, or the content just too prurient or violent..."

ugh. isn't that annoying? it's like they haven't even been around children. and yet it seems like i read those kinds of comments from parents!

that mirrors seniority prejudice that they are simply too feeble to be useful or understand complex concepts

so true. i've been coming across that sentiment at work a lot, since i'm at the beginning of a needs assessment for a certain demographic of seniors in the bay area. and the folks who exhibit that kind of condescension are usually otherwise-awesome administrators of senior programs! it is surprising, and annoying.


Maciek mark wrote: "Ian wrote: "I actually think "Anthem" does an excellent job of summing up all of Ayn Rand's philosophical points in a single novella..."

i think that one got on my radar because of an interesting ..."


Mark, Anthem is just as Ayn Randish as everything else she wrote, only shorter. I still want to read Atlas Shrugged and become a billionaire and have my own railroad.


message 13: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday i want to re-read The Fountainhead and then go blow up some housing projects! yeah! who cares about the petty housing needs of the less well-off - the Ego must remain triumphant! and after that, i'm gonna go rape the girl i love because she belongs to me! i've learned so much from Ayn Rand.


Maciek Yes, Ayn Rand is the greatest moral teacher that ever lived. I do start my day by standing naked on the edge of a cliff and laughing, thinking how I will crush my enemies. Okay, it is not the edge of a cliff but a bathroom but it sure feels good to feel like a warrior when you're taking a leak.


message 15: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday that's a real coincidence - i like to climb up to my roof every morning and take a naked, triumphant leak on all the people walking on the sidewalk below. they are like ants to me!


Maciek You are Objectively right! i feel like writing a 10000 page book expressing my feelings on the matter but I am too busy expressing the virtures of free market and laisez farre capitalism to anyone who would listen, which for now includes my pet dog Ricky and an old styrofoam cup which at one point held coffee but now doesn't. Okay, I made up Ricky but it doesn't really matter since my philosophy is the only possible one and has absolutely no flaws, except for those who disagree with it.


message 17: by William1 (last edited Mar 16, 2012 02:01PM) (new)

William1 My God, Mark! What an egocentric little kid you were! Megalomaniacal even. But you're okay with me despite these deficits. ; )


message 18: by mark (last edited Mar 16, 2012 02:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Maciek, we should blow up those people who disagree! i hate their flaws, they disgust me with their weakness! i hate that almost as much as i hate an empty coffee cup. i wish i had a flawed, weak subhuman to get me a fresh cup right now. but all i have is my cat, who is looking at me right now as if she has mixed feelings about me working from home. get off of my back, cat, i'm sick and that's a perfectly good excuse. even Perfectly Objectivist Unflawed Humans like myself get sick time to time. sick of this flawed world! that makes me sick! Objectively!


Maciek Let's blow everything up and start a new community up there in the hills! We'll have to kick the hillbillies out first but it's worth it!


message 20: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday My God, Mark! What an egocentric little kid you were!

very, very, very guilty as charged. i can (sadly) say that even that first glimpse of empathy didn't really stick. it's funny that i rejected Ayn Rand so completely in college - when i was an egocentric asshole even then. i should have loved her. but my progressive self just couldn't deal with her.

this is a wee bit shameful, but i didn't fully understand what "empathy" even was until i took a "peer support training" in 1994. it was a two-weekend training that all volunteers took before being assigned an HIV+ client to volunteer for. the training was all about empathy & active listening & cultural humility and many other wonderful things. it truly changed me and my perspective in and on life. i'm still an egocentric asshole at heart, but because of that life-changing training, i try to put empathy and all of those other things first, as a constant goal.

and by "life-changing", i mean it. eventually i left my really high-paying job downtown and came to work for the relatively broke nonprofit that gave that training in the first place. and here i am, still working there.


message 21: by William1 (new)

William1 Forwarding this discussion to Homeland Security ; )


message 22: by William1 (new)

William1 mark wrote: "My God, Mark! What an egocentric little kid you were!

very, very, very guilty as charged. i can (sadly) say that even that first glimpse of empathy didn't really stick. it's funny that i rejected ..."


Good for you. Yes, I had a similar empathy inducing period. And it is--has to be an active desire on your part to put empathy first. That's tough to do but enormously rewarding in the end.


message 23: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday and so now i am known to colleagues & friends as an egocentric guy who turns into an asshole if he doesn't think you are being empathetic enough!

you are right, it has to be an active desire... and it is enormously rewarding.


message 24: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Let's blow everything up and start a new community up there in the hills! We'll have to kick the hillbillies out first but it's worth it!

Fully Objectified Super Humans only! and cats!


message 25: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I own a non-Objectivist cat, does that disqualify me?


message 26: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday s/he will have to serve the other cats, but if you're fine with that - you're in! although i am now very curious about your cat. in my experience, all cats strictly follow the Objectivist tradition!


message 27: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 hopefully i am not mixing up my Ians. you are one of 3 high-quality Ians i've come across in GR, so you'll have to forgive me if i confused you with someone else.

I have the same problem with Marks and Richards!


message 28: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday i'm the lower case one!


message 29: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 Lower case and upper class ;)


message 30: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday only in my mind!


midnightfaerie oh no!!!! please don't blow me up! And I won't get u coffee or be in league with your cats, I'm a dog lover. However, I do think Dagny's brother, James, the wishy-washy liberal brother who says we should not focus on working, but instead giving all our money away to those who don't earn it, should be your coffee getting, cat objectionist. That and your shrinks, because my dear boys, it sounds like u might need one. *wink* I have only read Atlas Shrugged and loved it. I'm in the process of reading and acquiring ALL her other work, including her tons of little novellas. And I recently picked up a book called "capitalism for children" at the book store that looked fun. So sadly, I can not in good conscience, being the hard working, money earning, dog lover, "like" this review. Although the book sounds interesting.

Now I will sit here and cringe and wait for the gernades to start.


message 32: by mark (last edited Mar 26, 2012 12:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday ha! don't worry janine, you are safe from me, always. i love my capitalist friends! and if i love any animal more than cats, it is dogs.

we will have to work on your love for Ayn Rand, but i will probably be doing that subliminally, so you won't even notice. a year from now you will hate her and you won't even know why. muahahahahaha!

oh and hey, please send James over. i need some coffee, stat!


midnightfaerie lol! oh i can hardly wait! subliminal messages...come and get me! :)


message 34: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark The Giver reminded me a lot of the equally wonderful Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron. read that one too, it's awesome.

Have just checked this one. Its Jasper Fforde. I love him but had not even heard of this one. Now on the list. cheers


message 35: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday hope you like it!


Saphira Moonstone I like 'Panem' you threw in there. :)


message 37: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday the most popular dystopia of them all!


message 38: by Miriam (new)

Miriam i am now very curious about your cat

I was just reminded of this conversation by last night's storm; my cat was insisting that his squirrel and bird friends needed to come inside. As soon as the rain stopped he tiptoed out through the puddles to see if they were okay.

Objectivists would probably only take this as more evidence that non-objectivists are silly...


message 39: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday that is almost unbearably endearing. your cat deserves a medal! Extra Special Cat!


message 40: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Some day I will catch his birdie confabs on film. The other day he was out back having a good old chat with a male robin who was cheeping back through a beak full of nest-building grasses, and the female robin came out of their bush and yelled at him to get back to work.


message 41: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday wow! more unbearably endearing. unbearable in a good way i.e. too cute for words. your cat's adventures would make a good children's book.


message 42: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark I agree with mark. That would be such a cute book


message 43: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Ha! I'm pretty sure there are a bunch of picture books like that. Cat and Canary is cute, and the The Lion and the Little Red Bird has cool paper-art illustrations.


message 44: by Jett (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jett Cooper i like this


message 45: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Jett!


ShAdOwBrEaK *Just*Try*And*Know*Who*I*Am* Agree all the way! And I don't think you were aiming to be funny but for some reason, I laughed a bit. You know those times when you laugh at things because they're true? Yeah, that's probably what I experienced.

What I don't understand is why people think this is some sort of propaganda? Would it be alright to ask an explanation? :P


message 47: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday rather than an explanation, let me just point you to a very well-written review by the excellent reviewer Keely that espouses a perspective on the book that I find to laughable and ridiculous:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

and i'm glad you enjoyed (and laughed with) my review. cheers!


ShAdOwBrEaK *Just*Try*And*Know*Who*I*Am* Haha, thanks, man!

Double cheers XD


Geoff I have to agree with you about Ayn Rand mark


message 50: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday she bothers me. i can't get behind her.


« previous 1
back to top