I had two distinct reactions to finishing The Giver: 1) How have I not read this book before? and 2) DAMN, that’s depressing. I had no idea what I was in for with this one even though almost everyone I know has read it. I took one of those stupid Facebook quizzes a month or two ago about how many Newberry books I’d read, and the result was very, very low. I’m not sure what I was reading when I was a kid, but it sure wasn’t this stuff. I’m pretty sure my first dystopia was 1984, and I was 14 or 15 when I read that one.
Again: DAMN. It’s about a kid named Jonas who lives in a very strict society that values Sameness. For generations, no one has experienced real pain or fear because most emotions have been dulled, and every requirement for human life has been planned and provided. Babies are born to Birthmothers and given to families with approved applications a year later. They go to school, make friends, and live what Jonas thinks are normal lives. Every year, in lieu of birthdays, children are given new responsibilities, up to age 12, when they are told by a group of Elders what they will do with the rest of their lives. Some become doctors, some lawyers, some laborers, etc. Except at Jonas’s twelve-year-old ceremony, the announcer skips over him until the end and names him the new Receiver of Memories, telling him that it’s an honor and will be difficult because he will have to experience pain. He must learn everything about the past from the previous Receiver, who Jonas calls the Giver. Jonas learns about war and famine and loneliness while the rest of his society has no idea that any of those things ever existed. They go on with their lives, have their careers, are assigned families of their own, grow old, and are “released,” which is another matter and is a mystery to Jonas. Then, of course, Things Happen.
Ohhhh, do they happen. The Giver is a short book, and I finished it in a couple of hours. I couldn’t stop reading it. So much for my current lack of attention span. It’s so good. (See? I don’t hate all kids’ books!) It’s also bleak, at least as much so as The Road or 1984. I’m sad I didn’t read this when I was a kid because it might have opened my eyes a bit to what was around me. When I was Jonas’s age, I was fairly sheltered in Minden. I was a good kid, and I had everything I needed and most things I wanted. Or, then again, maybe I wouldn’t have appreciated what this book is really saying.
Anyway, read it. If you have kids, I’d say, ten and up, have them read it. It’s amazing. It even made me cry, which is pretty rare. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’ll definitely be looking into more Lois Lowry.
As for the Puppy Update, it’s only been a day, and she’s still growing and still crazy. I’ve been taking her with me everywhere that I can so she gets used to people. We went to the Starbucks on Airline in Bossier, and she met a little boy from Georgia who agreed that she is the Cutest Thing.
And here she is being ridiculous with a stick: