Mom's Book Review: The Giver
Lois Lowry's The Giver is once again bound to be at the top of middle school reading lists this coming summer. In anticipation of the annual warm-weather read of this YA classic — as well as the August release of the film version starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep — here's MomSpeaker Raya Fagg's take on the book, which she recently read to keep up with her own middle-schooler.
The PreTeen is working on an essay for school about utopian societies. My attempt to help him organize his words were met with a mumble of “Geez, Mom!” To avoid a battle over homework, I thought I would scan the book he's reading — The Giver — to get the gist of the story.
I was captivated by this book. My fingers tapping on my Kindle screen couldn’t keep up with my eyes. The story of 11-year-old Jonas, a young man who lives in an ideal society, is one of the most haunting books I have read this year.
The Giver is set in an sterile world: Children are well behaved and mannerable, adults are given the right job, children are required to complete hours of service — and they don’t complain! The community is so safe that Jonas can recall only one person meeting misfortune.
When Jonas turns 12 his view of the world changes. In December all of the children born in the same year move to their next year. In a ceremony akin to graduation, Jonas and the other “Elevens” are given their assignments that will form their adult destiny. Jonas isn’t given a traditional job. He is bestowed with the honor of receiving the memories and history of the community from a man known as The Giver.
Once Jonas begins his training, he learns that his flat and colorless world is not the peaceful and easygoing existence he has always believed it to be. As he experiences new and sometimes painful events, he sees that his whole life is a lie. With each memory he receives, whether painful or one of joy, Jonas cannot tolerate the ignorance of his family and friends.
After receiving a memory of a family celebrating Christmas, Jonas asks his parents if they love him. His parents laugh at his question and tell him that he is using a meaningless, almost obsolete word. Love can be cruel at times, but it is never meaningless. This makes him think about a place beyond the community, Elsewhere. When people are released, they go Elsewhere. Elsewhere is a place no one has ever visited or seen, but take for granted it exists.
How many times have I groaned this winter at the thought of more snow rather than enjoy the option of having a change in weather? Or what about my grumbles at the cats tearing up my house as they play instead of enjoying the antics of kittens exploring (this may be amended if they don’t stay out of my yarn). How many days have passed that I didn’t appreciate what I do have rather than covet what I don’t? These and other questions were things I thought as I read The Giver.
The PreTeen and I were able to talk through some bullet points about the story for his essay. We decided that even though the community was free from crime and mundane chores like dish washing and laundry, there is nothing peaceful about a life that doesn’t include love.
Raya Fagg is a mom of two from Upper Darby, PA. This post is adapted from her blog And Starring As Herself…MRSRFKJ.