The Giver by Lois Lowry is a book I read and loved many times when I was a kid. I recently discovered that this was just the first book in a quartet, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to re-read one of my all-time favorites. (The other books are Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son).
The Giver is written for kids, but with adults in mind, there’s something there for everyone. The book tells the story of Jonas, a twelve year old boy. Jonas lives in a Utopian society where everything is tightly regulated, even down to the weather. Here, when children turn twelve, they are assigned a job by the committee of elders that run the community. In the early chapters, we follow Jonas as he tries to figure out what job he wants, and what job the elders might assign him.
At the ceremony when jobs are assigned, the chief elder skips Jonas’s name, striking a sort of fear and dread into him that we can feel even as readers. At the end of the ceremony, it is revealed that Jonas has been selected for a very important job: the Receiver of Memories.
The people in the community have never known war, hunger, or disease. The committee relies on the Receiver to hold memories of the outside world and draw wisdom from them. When Jonas starts receiving these memories, he learns other, dark secrets about the community. He and his mentor, the Giver, come up with a plan to release these memories back into the community, hopefully shocking the people out of the sheltered “utopia” they’ve been living in. The hardest thing Jonas has ever done is learn to ride a bike, how could he ever pull off such a plan?