The Giver by Lois Lowry
Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a very orderly community. Everything happens in stages. Dreams are discussed at breakfast. Emotions after dinner. At at 9 you get a bike, at 12 you start training for your career. But when Jonas starts training with “the giver” the veil on his world is pulled back and he learns the true price of his supposedly peaceful community.
The Giver was the dystopian ya novel before dystopian ya novels were hip. I missed this book as a kid, but I’ve been hearing a lot about it lately, and it was recommended to me here on the blog by Susan Bright of The Friday Morning Bookclub. (Thanks Susan!)
After reading it, I realize how big a debt Veronica Roth’s Divergent owes this book and Lauren Oliver’s Delirium as well—though I had to put the last one down because the premise was so far-fetched. Divergent has some premise problems as well, but then perhaps most dystopian novels have unbelievable premises.
Dystopian novels often take a seemingly positive goal—such as avoiding emotional pain or war—to the extreme and show you how it might be to live in a world that took some strange steps to achieve this goal.
The difference with The Giver is Lowry’s writing mastery. The Giver’s premise is revealed in a way that makes you walk in Jonas’ shoes. You see the beauty and the logic as well as the horror of the dystopia he lives in. While the more modern dystopias sometimes skimp on explanation, the world in The Giver is very fully imagined, and therefore, seems more plausible.
The Giver is a bit slower in pace, and since Jonas is only 12, the perspective is more innocent than something like Divergent, but make no mistake, this is a hard-hitting dark, dystopian novel, one that really speaks to that startling time in life when you first realize that the world is not what you thought it was.