At first, we were given The Giver (no pun intended) as a book that we had to read for school. Now, I could probably write an essay on it, but I’m not going to. I had to do that for the yearlies.
So. Where to begin.
We open onto an eleven-year-old boy named Jonas, who is feeling nervous about two things. One, the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve. And two, an unregistered, unplanned aircraft that just flew over his community.
The pilot of the plane was Released. Release is when a person either commits three severe offences, scares other people very badly, or they can apply. They believe they are going to a place called Elsewhere.
Jonas lives in a place that is only known as ‘the Community’. Saying that the Community is strict is definitely an understatement. Children are taken away from their mothers at birth, and the mothers don’t care because that’s what their job is. They are given names by the Committee of Elders, the ruling body, when they are one year old. Before that time, they are known only by the order in which they were born. They are then given to Pairs that apply for children, forming a family unit. They are organised into age groups, who have a collective birthday as the kids don’t know their actual birthdays. The kids aren’t allowed to ride bikes until they’re nine years old, there is a set uniform for everything, and to top all that, there’s no colour and no emotion. On the other hand, there’s always food. Nobody’s ever starving. There’s no social hierarchy, except for the Elders.
Pretty much your basic utopia, right?
When eleven-year-olds turn twelve, they go through the Ceremony of Twelve, which is basically the moment kids become adults. The Twelves are assigned jobs, and most of them are standard for the Community. Birthmother (exactly what it says on the tin), Assistant Director of Recreation, Fish Hatchery Manager, Nurturer, Director of Fours, and so on. But, following true sci-fi tradition, Jonas is designated Receiver of Memory, the most prestigious position in the Community. There is only one Receiver per generation or two, depending on how long the Receiver lives.
When Jonas goes for his first training session with the current Receiver, who asks Jonas to call him ‘the Giver’ (Yes, I know, title!), the Giver gives him a memory of sledding, and snow, and hills, and cold.
But you’ve got to bear in mind that in the Community, there aren’t any sleds, or snow, or hills, or even cold. The people of the Community are oblivious to the fact that life’s been so much more than what it is now. So Jonas, understandably, is completely confused. The Giver explains everything to him.
For the next year, the Giver gives Jonas more and more memories, like a sailing boat, war, poachers, violence, sunburn, the beach, and cold, wet days when you snuggle up with hot chocolate. His family unit take in an extra baby, called Gabriel, for extra Nurturing because he wasn’t ready to be assigned a family unit. Family units are only allowed to have two children, one boy and one girl, and Jonas already has a little sister.
Jonas becomes able to see colour and have deep, strong, emotions. He discovers that Release is a fancy way of saying either ‘murder’ or ‘suicide’, after he watches a baby get Released because it had an identical twin, and identical twins aren’t allowed in the Community.
One night, over dinner, Jonas’s father announces that Gabriel will be Released, as he isn’t strong enough to be assigned a family unit, which prompts Jonas to action, as he’s become very fond of Gabriel over the year he’s known him.
Jonas takes Gabriel, on a journey to Elsewhere, away from the Community, to give the memories of colour, snow, sunlight, emotion, hills, and oceans back to the people of the Community.
The only really irritating thing about The Giver was the ending. It didn’t say whether Jonas made it to Elsewhere, but if you read the sequels, you’ll know that he did, and became a man only known as Leader. It’s by Lois Lowry (yes, Lois), and I’d recommend it for age twelve and above. Go forth and read!