The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993) is a children’s book that is about a seemingly utopian society where “sameness” is what provides the people with stability. As the story progresses, we learn that the sameness has created a lack of emotion to the point where even the people do not experience color. Jonas, the main character and young teenager, learns the truth about his community as he is chosen to be the receiver of memories, which have been eradicated in order for sameness to be achieved. The giver is an old man who gives him these memories and with them comes the truth and many other revelations.
The Giver is a book that is read by many middle school and high school students as a way, it seems, to get young students interested in reading while at the same time encouraging them to think deeply about the text and its meaning. The book is set apart from many of the other required reading because of how recently it has been published compared to most other books such as Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Mark Twain, etc. And, many critics disagree that The Giver should be lauded to the extent that it is. Many adults reflect fondly on the book while other groan about the chore of having to read it so many years ago.
While I do remember reading a number of other Lois Lowry books (Number the Stars and Anastasia Krupnik come to mind), I had never read the book before this year. I am not sure how I escaped middle school and high school without having read it because I know that my brother read it. I think that it was because it was on a summer list and I simply chose to read something else. Because of this, I experienced the book for the first this month and then went to see the movie. I liked the book. I appreciated very much the message that was being portrayed and it was a simple listen because it was only 4 hours long. I was left feeling a bit disappointed because I was hoping that Jonas would confront his community more than he ended up doing.
I don’t want to give away too much, but I felt like there should have been some more action in the book and I was wondering how the movie would handle this lack of action. In the book, Jonas is 12-years-old. So I am left wondering whether Jonas really could have been able to comprehend the depth of what was going on around him. The movie fixed this by making him 18-years-old. Other than this, I am unsure what is so bad about the logic in the book. Sure, the book is fantastical and suspension of disbelief is required but it is a book based in a futuristic, fantastical society. Maybe the naysayers wouldn’t be so tough on the book now that it is joined by other similarly themed novels such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner.
The movie was not nearly as awesome as the trailer led me to believe that it would be and both Chris, my husband, and I felt like while the cinematography was good, it could have been a lot better, espcially with black-and-white verses the color scenes. The scenes where the memories are being experienced could have been much more powerful. It is true that the movie had a great cast but it is my opinion that the cast was underutilized. The cast was simply limited because the book did not allow for them to be able to be any more expressive or emotional then they were being. While it is disappointing that the characters wee so stoic, that is what is required of these characters.
SPOILER-I feel like the one area where the filmmakers could have spent more time was the actual escape from his community to the next. In the book, Jonas and the baby he takes with him struggle through deserts and winter wonderlands and he is forced to utilize his memories to keep himself and the baby alive. The hardships were shown in the movie but not exactly how they managed to survive.
Even if you have read The Giver back in middle school many decades ago, I recommend that you read it again. Chances are that you might feel differently about some of the goings on in Jonas’ community now that you have a family of your own and understand what love truly is. The movie is decent but you could easily wait for DVD rental or Netflix. If you have a middle school student, then I would agree that this book could help to foster a love for reading and get them ready for even longer and more involved books that they will be reading later on.