BBW Day 1: The Giver by Lois Lowry

Banned Books Banner

 

Friday – Contest to win The Chocolate War
Saturday – Today’s review of The Giver

 

Welcome to Banned Books Week takeover of my blog. Each day for eight days there will be a new review up for a book found on the American Library Association’s lists of banned/challenged books that I myself have read and loved. We’re going to start the week with my favourite young adult dystopia – The Giver by Lois Lowry.

 

The Giver The Giver by Lois Lowry Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ISBN – 13: 978-0-440-23768-6
Published: 1993
My edition: published in 2002, 179 pages long, Random House Children’s Publishing

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community.

When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it’s time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

 

REASONS FOR CHALLENGES/BANNING

Although The Giver has not made the list of Top 10 Challenged Books since at least 2001, it has been on the list in 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007, and 2007-2008 (lists prior to 2004 are not available through the ala website). Lois Lowry has been on the Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century in 2005 and 2007. The Giver came in at number 11 in the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990-1999.

Most common reasons that were noted in suggestions for banning were: that the book was “lewd” and “twisted”, violence, sexual content, adolescent drug use, themes of suicide and use of lethal injections.

 

REVIEW…beware of spoilers

As I mentioned above, The Giver is my favourite young adult dystopia novel. Even in the very beginning, Jonas’s world seems too strict, too ordered, too monotonous – I knew that if I had to suddenly live in a society like that, I would fail. Of course, it’s much different when you’re born into such a society. The world that Lois Lowry created in The Giver fascinated me, and frightened me. The citizens in Jonas’s town are, in a sense, controlled. Jobs are assigned at the age of twleve – you have no say. Marriages are matched up by the Council; children are handed out to families who apply for one (they do not give birth to their own children. Birthmother is a job assignment); Stirrings – what the book refers to lust as – are kept under control by a pill each day (this is where the reason of adolescent drug use comes in to play); citizens can be Released from the community.

Since I first read the novel in my third year of University for a Children’s Lit class, I was old enough to immediately pick up on the meaning behind the term Release. I think I was only a few chapters in when I thought to myself: “they kill them. Release means death.” I was right. When a citizen is Released, they are given a lethal injection – either at their own request, because they have broken one of the laws severely enough to warrent a release, or they are born imperfect. Obviously, this is where the objections to suicide and lethal injections come from.

Just the above reasons would be enough to class this book as a dystopia, but over the course of the novel we discover that there is more. There is no colour in Jonas’s world – everyone sees in only black and white. One of the criteria of Jonas being picked to be the next Receiver of Memory is that he can “see beyond”, he can see glimpses of the colour that should be seen (it first starts when Jonas sees an apple change to red for a brief moment). There is also no weather change besides slight breezes. No one has ever witnessed snow (this part confused me slightly, since their village is not within a dome of any kind, and when Jonas leaves the village he encounters snow. How can they keep weather away from just the village?)

Scariest of all, there is almost no emotion. Yes, they have words for fear, love, anguish, anger, sadness and believe they feel them, but as Jonas begins receiving the memories of the past he soon comes to realize that what they ‘feel’ are weak, flimsy versions of real emotion. The community is generally so safe that no one ever experiences real pain, either. This is the hardest part of Jonas’s Receiving – feeling true pain, from war and hunger and disease. The Receiver of Memories (who later becomes The Giver to the new Receiver) holds all the memories of the past, so that the citizens do not have to. They can be content within their world, never knowing colour, true emotion, pain, war, snow, holidays, disease, lust and anything else that a memory can hold (this idea is also slightly confusing. It’s like everyone should share everyone elses memories and experiences, living and dead, but instead they let just one person do it, so they don’t have to remember. Is every slightly psychic/telepathic in Lowry’s future/world?).

The first time I read this book I finished it in under two hours. I had planned to skim it for class the next day and finish it properly later on. I couldn’t put it down. I was so in love with this book by the time I finished that I think my roommates wanted to duct tape my mouth shut so I would stop talking about it. I immediately realized that Lowry had written sequels (since they were listed at the back of The Giver), Gathering Blue and Messenger. I bought them the next week and loved them as much as I did the first. Lowry’s writing pulled me in right away and made me connect with Jonas. We get no elaborate backstory, but I think that’s part of what I like about this book. I get to decide myself what happened to the world to split it into villages that rarely – if not never – interact with each other. Jonas, The Giver, the plot, the world created…it all combined to create a novel that I became invested in and cried over (I cry a lot over books, apparently). I think everyone should read this book, and I recommend it fully. Even if you think you’ll hate it (and end up hating it) I think you should read it. I give The Giver five hearts and a spot forever on my shelf of books I re-read every chance I get.

heart 5

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “BBW Day 1: The Giver by Lois Lowry

  1. Hi Cait!
    I’m going to put a link to your blog from mine for our joint celebration of BBW! Thanks for letting me know over at Book Blogs! It’s great to celebrate and I love that we can link up and have a book party! Will also post about your giveaway connected to BBW!

    Take care!
    Suzanne
    Chick with Books

  2. Pingback: BBW Day 8: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky « escape through the pages

  3. Pingback: BBW Day 4: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson « escape through the pages

  4. Pingback: BBW Day 3: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley « escape through the pages

  5. Pingback: BBW Day 2: Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling « escape through the pages

  6. Pingback: BBW Day 7: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood | Escape Through the Pages

Comments are closed.