Book Review: The Giver

THE GIVER 2This book haunts me. It has taken me nearly two years to write the review (can it be?!?). It is one of the rare occasions when I am reviewing a book I do not own, so every time I see it in the book store I have this dilemma over buying a book I won’t read right away. It comes up in conversation because it is one of only two books I have ever “read” in the audio form. And it haunts me just because the story is, at heart, a haunting one.

This is how it went down: I was about to head home from upstate New York to North Carolina. For once, I was leaving my husband behind and driving with just two kids in tow: ages eight and eleven. My plan for fighting boredom and fatigue was stopping by a Cracker Barrel to rent some audio books, which can be returned to any Cracker Barrel, anywhere, and so could be returned in North Carolina. The choices were largely lousy; easy-to-digest crimes, mysteries, horror, and romance. Some self-help. But there were a few, shining titles which held potential. Then I had to narrow it down to books which would not scar the children should they start listening. I ended up with Holes and The Giver.

I now congratulate myself on those choices.

I don’t know what I expected with Lois Lowry’s The Giver, but my expectation had something to do with a rabbi. It was the cover, I think, that I had seen most. Maybe like Chaim Potok’s The Chosen? It’s dystopian science fiction! You probably already knew that, but I found it to be a head-jerking shocker.

And it really is one of the best science fiction novels ever written.

For kids? Sure, whatever. YA especially. But there is so much here for readers of all advanced ages to love. It’s just so clean, the writing masterful. The story is riveting. The weaving of the story keeps you on tenterhooks. The lessons are applicable and serve as dire warnings for future civilization. You just have to let this story unfold on its own. Be patient. It will reward.

I don’t know what more to say. There is a sense that the book has two distinct parts, and that the second is more of an addendum than the continued story. There is also the possibility that the ending is a bit goofy and could have been omitted. I’m torn on the ending, myself. If anything, the tone of the first part, second part, and ending all seem so different.

The characters are memorable, but I really think it is the story and the writing that steal the show. If you enjoy science fiction, you’ve probably already read it. I mean, it’s on the “summer reading” tables in bookstores every year. It has won various awards, including a Newbery Medal, and is consistently on best book lists. This is a book for everyone, and a book for the ages.



Regrettably, since I “heard” this as an audiobook, I did not get to do any underlining. Drats.



There is a movie adaptation of The Giver that came out in 2014. I loved the book so much, we watched the movie shortly after. Alas, I do not remember the movie so very well. I think I enjoyed it to a point. There were parts of the story that I found too simplified, and some things were just not as I imagined them. As a movie, in and of itself, I would have found it lackluster. A fine movie to play for an English class which has just read the book, I suppose. But you could skip it.


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