Book Published: April 26, 1993
Genre: Middle Grade Dystopian
Movie Premiered: August 15, 2014
Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, and Meryl Streep
This haunting story centers on Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he's given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.
This Review Contains Spoilers. Continue reading at your own risk.
This was a re-read for me. The last time I read it, I was probably twelve. I don't remember for sure though, but it's a book we read for school and since Jonas is a twelve, I assume that's about when we read it. I thought I remembered the story pretty well, and I did, kind of, at least the major points. Like I remembered that they don't have color in the community and that was the first thing Jonas started to see. I remembered that Jonas would be in charge of all the memories from the past. And I remembered that when he left, he took the nenwchild, Gabriel, with him. But there were many aspects of the story that I either forgot, or that just didn't make much of an impression on me as a child.
Reading the book again as an adult was a different experience, largely because some of the details stood out to me more. Like the fact that the kids get their jobs at the Ceremony of Twelve (some of them will be thirteen by our standards at this point, but still very much children) and one of those jobs for women is birthmother. This is a job with a very short training period according to the book, which means that fourteen year old girls are being impregnanted to maintain the population. And since each birthmother has three births in three consecutive years before becoming a laborer for the rest of her life, and there are fifty children assigned each year. This means that out of the approximately twenty-five girls born each year, seventeen of them will be give the job of birthmother (probably. There is talk of twins being born, but when they're identical, one of them is chosen for release rather than being assigned. So even if birthmothers are expected to deliver twins with each birth, they'd still probably want to have thirty birthmothers at all times, so ten girls from each year will be given the job of birthmother under those circumstances. These are things I thought about during this re-read.) But that won't affect Jonas. He's a boy. He's also special. Different.
Another thing that stood out more to me this time around is that "release" is actual murder. I just remembered it as being a virtual death sentence because being banished from the socialist utopian community that provides literally everything for you would not end well. That is honestly what I remember thinking happened though, probably because that's what Jonas believes until the climax of the story.
My final takeaway. At first during my re-read I was actually a bit appalled that my school district in rural Kansas would let kids read this, let alone require it. But as I started to think about what I remembered, I got it. The things that horrified me so much as an adult didn't even register to me as a child. It was just more detail that didn't seem to matter much in the whole scheme of things. And since they didn't directly affect the main character, they really ultimately didn't.
I also expected this book to bore me more than it did this time around. It's written for children after all, and it was a re-read. It should have been snooze city for me. But the nuance and little details that seemed so insignificant to me as a child kept it interesting and even got me a bit fired up. I can honestly say I'd recommend this book to children and adults.
5 out of 5 stars.
|Photo Credit: IMDB.com|
I had high hopes for this movie, but they were very quickly dashed. One of the first major issues for me was that Jonas is very clearly not a Twelve in the movie. Nope. He, Asher and Fiona are all approximately eighteen. I'm sure this was done to make the idea of the birthmothers more palatable, but it was disappointing nonetheless. On top of that, they tripled the population of the community. Instead of there being fifty children assigned each year, there are 150 children assigned, which made Jonas number fifty-two instead of the number nineteen he is in the book. I can't even fathom the reasoning behind that change because it means the movie needed more extras. Then Fiona and Asher were given jobs different from what they received in the book. The reason for that becomes clear later on in the movie and was clearly done to add drama, but it irked me something fierce.
What really bugged me about the movie though, is that they made Jonas's escape The Giver's idea. He dropped subtle suggestions to make it seem like it was Jonas's idea, but it was apparent that it wasn't the first time he tried to convince a receiver to run away. I mean, there was the previous failure that was all his fault (that was in the book, but it played out slightly differently than in the movie). This gets to me because in the book, The Giver is really against the idea of giving the memories back to the members of the community (which is what The Receiver running away would accomplish), but Jonas keeps pushing and eventually he comes around. Essentially, the movie took the very basic ideas behind the book and used them, and then changed everything else. And because I really enjoyed the book, that was a horrible thing for them to do.
Now I imagine that the movie would be far more enjoyable if you'd never read the book, or at least if you hadn't read the book recently since the major plot points are what would likely have stuck in your head from before. So my advice, if you really want to watch the movie, do it before reading the book, because it just can't compete.
This movie gets a D, because ultimately it all but failed to engender the same feelings as the book and missed most of the details along the way. - Katie
About the Author
Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After several years at Brown University, she turned to her family and to writing. She is the author of more than thirty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader.s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association.s Children.s Book Award. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Cambridge and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at www.loislowry.com
Q. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
A. I cannot remember ever not wanting to be a writer.
Q. What inspired you to write The Giver?
A. Kids always ask what inspired me to write a particular book or how did I get an idea for a particular book, and often it’s very easy to answer that because books like the Anastasia books come from a specific thing; some little event triggers an idea. But a book like The Giver is a much more complicated book, and therefore it comes from much more complicated places—and many of them are probably things that I don’t even recognize myself anymore, if I ever did. So it’s not an easy question to answer.
I will say that the whole concept of memory is one that interests me a great deal. I’m not sure why that is, but I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of what memory is and what it does and how it works and what we learn from it. And so I think probably that interest of my own and that particular subject was the origin, one of many, of The Giver.
Q. How did you decide what Jonas should take on his journey?
A. Why does Jonas take what he does on his journey? He doesn’t have much time when he sets out. He originally plans to make the trip farther along in time, and he plans to prepare for it better. But then, because of circumstances, he has to set out in a very hasty fashion. So what he chooses is out of necessity. He takes food because he needs to survive. He takes the bicycle because he needs to hurry and the bike is faster than legs. And he takes the baby because he is going out to create a future. And babies always represent the future in the same way children represent the future to adults. And so Jonas takes the baby so the baby’s life will be saved, but he takes the baby also in order to begin again with a new life.
Q. When you wrote the ending, were you afraid some readers would want more details or did you want to leave the ending open to individual interpretation?
A. Many kids want a more specific ending to The Giver. Some write, or ask me when they see me, to spell it out exactly. And I don’t do that. And the reason is because The Giver is many things to many different people. People bring to it their own complicated beliefs and hopes and dreams and fears and all of that. So I don’t want to put my own feelings into it, my own beliefs, and ruin that for people who create their own endings in their minds.
Q. Is it an optimistic ending? Does Jonas survive?
A. I will say that I find it an optimistic ending. How could it not be an optimistic ending, a happy ending, when that house is there with its lights on and music is playing? So I’m always kind of surprised and disappointed when some people tell me that they think the boy and the baby just die. I don’t think they die. What form their new life takes is something I like people to figure out for themselves. And each person will give it a different ending. I think they’re out there somewhere and I think that their life has changed and their life is happy, and I would like to think that’s true for the people they left behind as well.
Q. In what way is your book Gathering Blue a companion to The Giver?
A. Gathering Blue postulates a world of the future, as The Giver does. I simply created a different kind of world, one that had regressed instead of leaping forward technologically as the world of The Giver has. It was fascinating to explore the savagery of such a world. I began to feel that maybe it coexisted with Jonas’s world . . . and that therefore Jonas could be a part of it in a tangential way. So there is a reference to a boy with light eyes at the end of Gathering Blue. He can be Jonas or not, as you wish.