The Giver by Lois Lowry
Set in a futuristic Utopia, Jonas is selected as the new Receiver of Memory but when the memories show cracks in his perfect society, he starts to discover dark secrets that lie beneath the surface. I enjoyed the story. It could have been choppier in places and especially in the beginning but overall it’s a good read. What irks me though, is the ending. It feels like the story ends in the wrong place, just short of the conclusion. It’s a bit like ending The Hunger Games before Katniss has even entered the arena.
The narration is third-person though focuses solely on Jonas and what he sees and thinks. While I enjoy the narration, I feel as though it hinders the development of Jonas’ character. It enhances the story-telling but ultimately, it makes Jonas read as a dull, hollow fragment.
While the characterization isn’t anything to shout about, I can understand the rationale behind this. It’s a story set in a futuristic, perfect world where there is no hunger and pain. The people are all essentially clones. When you take away their freedom of choice, you wipe their personalities. The exceptions being Jonas and the Giver. Having said this, a good story hinges on plot and character. I needed one rebellious character to invest in. I think that was meant to be Asher but I think he’s just an OK character. There’s nothing definitive about him; nothing that grasps and demands my attention. I also would have liked to have seen more evolution in Jonas’ character as the secrets started to surface.
Quality of Writing: 10/20
The writing style is simple which would suit the story if it weren’t for the excessive detail. When Jonas is washing one of the Old, he goes into microscopic detail and in moments like these, it’s easy to zone out and forget about the story. There are moments when we’re told what’s happening when the gestures would suffice. At the Assignments ceremony, we’re told that the crowd is “ill at ease”. It’s not necessary. It fills pages but it detracts from getting to know the world, the characters and progressing with the story. It grates on me that everything has to be explained the minute it’s introduced and that it’s the ordinary, everyday objects like doors that get such elaborate descriptions rather than the rituals and happenings with which we are unfamiliar.
Jonas’ world is explained, not only through place, but through his interactions with other characters and his observations. When he speaks with Lily, we learn that there are significant symbols for each age. Fours, Fives and Sixes have jackets that fasten at the back but on their seventh birthday, they receive a jacket that fastens at the front to teach them independence. We learn about Assignments and the system for acquiring children, for the ritual of death with the Old and it is all of these that reinforce the descriptive detail and anchor us in Jonas’ world.
Comparative Literature: 7/10
The book is twenty-years-old so I can’t exactly compare it to dystopian stories from the last five years. The concepts are strong and the world is fully-realised. The characters are somewhat flat. The plot cuts off at the end rather abruptly when it feels like it’s just about to reach a peak, which is disappointing.
NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:
- Solid world-building technique
- Somewhat flat characters
- A ending that leaves the reader feeling cheated
Overall Score: 64/100