Pop quiz: What’s one book every American school kid reads that’s not Shakespeare or written in the 19th century? If you said Of Mice and Men, well, you’re right. I was, however, thinking of The Giver by Lois Lowry. Don’t judge me.
You remember reading this sometime in your school years, right? If you don’t, you had a terrible school. If you did, isn’t it awesome? No? Well, as the saying goes, everybody’s a critic.
I’m brining this book up now because there’s a movie in the works set to release on August 15, 2014. So let’s dive into this book.
The Giver is about Jonas, a typical eleven year (as in, he’s eleven years old) in his community. He goes to lessens, helps out at the house of the elderly and is waiting to become a twelve in order to get his job title. He is told he will become the next Keeper of Memories. What that entails is he’ll be with the current Keeper, who he tells Jonas to call him the Giver and thus Jonas the Receiver, and receive memories that no one else in the community has.
This book starts out as a utopian novel given that everything seems perfect. Everyone has their own house, everyone is given a job and money is not an issue. Instead, this world is really dystopian. You see, this society was founded on the idea of sameness. Do what’s right for the community, all children are born from birth mothers, no sex, no war, no personal possessions and everyone wears the same clothes. Get out of line and you’re “released.”
Released means to get executed. Thing is, this is done in a very private room where only certain people perform the killing. This society has no notion of death, so being released to these people means they leave the community.
There is also a sense of thought police here though not as extreme and scary as in 1984. The difference here is that everyone here accepts these rules because this is what they’re used to. There is nothing else out there. This is normal and what life is.
Another thing this book has is that everyone sees in black and white. So when Jonas sees the apple he and his friend Asher are throwing turn red it amazes him. He has ever seen red until that instant. The black and white is also part of the sameness this society created. Why make people see in black and white? Simple: Black and white is neutral. Look at all other colors. They all have different meanings and convey different emotions. Black and white conveys nothing. No emotions + no opinions = easy to control.
I will admit that this book is essentially a PG rated version of 1984. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s rather excellent. The writing is superb, the characters are well thought out, the plot execution is grand and it’s one of those books that have so many layers you find something new each time you read it. If you haven’t given this book a chance, do it now before the movie comes out. Let’s hope they don’t screw this movie up, especially since they are headlining Meryl Streep even though 1. She’s not the main character and 2. Her character only appears in one scene.