The Giver and its dystopian descendants

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 wellthough 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 goalsuch as  avoiding emotional pain or warto 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.


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7 Responses to The Giver and its dystopian descendants

  1. Juli Jones says:

    The GIver is one of my favorites, as is Lowry’s Gathering Blue, also dystopian. Her way of writing is so simple, but packed with meaning.

  2. The Giver is amazing. I remember reading it and thinking “meh” when I was in grade school – but then, I did that with all the books I was forced to read for school. When I picked it up again in high school, I was blown away. The surprise twist in that book is just so good. You never see it coming. It’s like the twist in Ender’s Game. The twist is so good that you never even comprehend that it could possibly be coming. I want to go back and read The Giver now.

    • sarazaske says:

      Cool. Do it! Sometimes you have to read a book at the right time. I’m sorry I missed this when I was younger, but it was fun to read it in the context of all that came after.

  3. I haven’t read this one yet, but after your review I think I have to leave all the others on my shelf and get this one first.

  4. susanbright says:

    The Giver is one of my daughter’s all time favorites. She has read it so many times over the years that her paper back it is falling apart. Great book!

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