Every week, Volumes will feature a new review from one of your St Cuthberts classmates. Want to write one of your own? It's easy! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line 'Book review request' to find out more.
This week, Xinxin Zhu (Year 9) explores Lois Lowry's classic The Giver.
The Giver by Lois Lowry is a fictional story that was originally published in 1993. It is first set in an utopian community, but is revealed as dystopian as the story progresses. We learn that sometime in the past, the community where Jonas, the main character lives in, decided to eliminate pain from people's lives, and they created what is called ‘sameness’. They wiped out the actual memory of pain such as what had been suffered throughout human history, like war, and without the memory of it, it meant that society could not be affected by any type of regret or grief, since they can’t remember the events that hurt them. However, without memories, the community could repeat the past errors, so they designated one person as the Receiver of memories. Jonas had been selected, and he had to aid the community's decision making and draw wisdom from history.
A truly significant part of the book is when Jonas learns the truth about his life. It all started off smoothly when the first memory that was transferred to Jonas was of a sled riding downhill in the snow. He felt his first sense of true happiness, and was amazed by emotions he never knew existed. However, as time passed, he soon realized that the community he lived in gave up all these memories of happiness, love, and more in order to live with peace, and perfect harmony. He found out that living without pain, envy, anger, suffering, and even hate, is impossible without sacrifice of the good.
The burden that Jonas had to carry on his shoulders was massive. He now knows that there are a billion more things in life, but can only watch oblivious people going about their daily tasks, while keeping all this information to himself. However, this did not last long for Jonas. One day, he learns of something terrible, and this realization made Jonas determined that the community needed change. He could not bear the weight anymore. Jonas knows that if the plan succeeds, his actions will be irreversible – but would you agree with what he did? I guess that’s up to you to decide.
The Giver was inspired by many experiences throughout Lois Lowry’s life, including her interaction with her father, who at that time was starting to lose his memory. Although her novel is mostly aimed at young teens and children, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to wonder about the future or loves dystopian books. This book contains so much meaning for its short length; only about 200 pages or so, which adds to the reason why I recommend it so much. It is one of a few young adult books which leaves the ending up to you and you have a choice in what it means. This book comes in a series of 4 and has also been made into a movie.
Overall, this novel shows us how it can be tempting to live in a walled-in world where violence, poverty, and injustice technically does not exist, but we learn from the people living in the community that being in a sterile world for so long promotes the danger of losing the real emotions that make us human. Just think about how scary it would be if this new dystopian world in the book The Giver created was our future; it makes me truly grateful that we can live a life filled with not only the good emotions, but hurtful ones too.
Keen to read? You can check out Lois Lowry's The Giver at the Frances Compton Library, or pick up an e-book copy!
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