I was somewhat surprised to know that a significant portion of the English-written books I have read in the last 2 years are YA novels. Maybe it was related to what I have been trying to do–teaching. Many of them were compulsory due to the coursepacks I needed to follow in my classroom. The Giver has always been widely known for its significance in the field of education, which was a reason I grab this one.
I did not do enough research to verify my vague suspicion that the ‘Giver’ series officially set the path for those successful ‘dystopian’ YA series such as the Hunger Games and Divergent. Even though Lowry’s Quartet was written much earlier, I found its setting already too familiar because of those worldly franchises too much exposed in popular media.
Simply put, I did enjoy the book, but it was not that as memorable or amazing as its fame.
First of all, its futuristic, dystopian setting seems a bit rudimentary to be a basis of anything substantial in the characters and the plot. I know it’s absurd to expect details as much as in Brand New World and 1982, but I just wanted to learn more about the Community, their life without colors and love, in order to more closely connect to Jonas’ confusion and delights in receiving the ‘memories’. But a few of the facts a reader gets to know about this unknown setting is the significance of the December Ceremony where every 12-year-old is assigned a permanent role, and the concept of Release to Elsewhere. Lowry does not give more than that–there was little description about this colorless, painless, loveless community as vivid as that of the December Ceremony fully described in Chapter 6-7. That sufficiently explains why I did not wholeheartedly follow Jonas’ confusion and struggles as he receives the ‘memories’ of colors, pain and love.
Secondly, I also felt that the central characters are rather two-dimensional. The Giver is presented as a sage, but he relatively lacks human qualities for a common reader to connect to… We only get a glimpse of his feelings and thoughts in his brief mention of his daughter which is not further explained at all. (I think this is why Lowry published sequels) For the reason explained above, I also couldn’t connect to Jonas as he struggles in his ‘Receiving’ memories. He seemed a perfectly normal kid in the beginning, living with loving parents and a sister, hanging out with buddies, having a crush on a girl and so forth but he turns into some kind of alien as he takes his position as the ‘Receiver’… To me, Jonas did not spring as a fully developed character but only as a mere carrier of the plot.
Despite these, it was a smooth read, definitely appropriate for teenagers. I think this is a good entry for young adults into this wide literature genre called ‘dystopian.’
I just pray I won’t have to plan a whole unit out of it. 😉