The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is an incredibly short book. It’s one of those big idea books, where you don’t meander at all. You just get straight to the point. It’s all about what it would be like if there were no choices, and there were no memories. If there were no feelings. If all pain is suppressed. If you never learn about hunger, because there’s constant food. It seems like an utopia, right? Well, it’s more of an “utopia”. Like in all “utopias”, everything seems perfect until you learn more. Ignorance is bliss.
At first the main character thinks it would be dangerous if the community let people make choices like choosing your own spouse (Crazy!) or having your own babies (There are appointed baby-makers, so no one’s children are actually their children. Creeepy…) or even choosing your own job. (Scandalous!) He says that they could make the wrong choice, and then… But then he learns about colors (Yep, their world isn’t even black and white. It’s a kind of grey.) and music. The world has abolished them because they come as a package with choices. He also learns about love, which isn’t a word you’re allowed to use. It’s too strong of a word, they say. Since there aren’t really any true families, there’s no true love. He decides that the world would be better with choices after all. With the great stuff comes the bad stuff, like pain and loss and hunger. But those things come with the good things. The moral of this book is kind of: “True happiness cannot exist without struggle.” But it’s also: “Suck it up and quit whining, because the world wouldn’t be wonderful if it was all sameness with just happiness.”
The writing of The Giver is good. It’s simple and doesn’t go on and on. There are some surprises, and things that just make you want to say “No! Don’t do it!” On the cover: There’s something about that kind of cover (maybe the font) that just seems to say “This is an interesting book. It’s mysterious, too. Oh, you really want to read it.” And that always works on me.
The Giver is a good, deep book with a big idea and a warning that we should treasure what we have while he have it. Choices, feelings, memories…all good. It’s also another book to tell us that we shouldn’t whine about bad things, because if those were taken away, it wouldn’t be good. At all. It’s a good book to read if you want to think, but if you want to try to read it without thinking hard about it, you’ll miss out.