Saturday, January 03, 2009

Review - The Giver

The Giver I kept hearing good things about this book so I finally picked it up and read it over Christmas break. Being a kids/young adult book, it was a fairly fast read. Still, because of the depth created in the world of the book, I tried to slow down my reading and take it all in.

The overall plot of the book felt fairly familiar after having read other 'futuristic' or 'alternate humanity' books. My most recent memory was to _City of Ember_ which I read earlier this year. In both books, there's an isolated Community with rather specific rules and regulations as well as a sort of lottery process that specifies a future career for children once they reach a certain age. Stepping beyond that plot device, the two books diverge greatly...with Ember dwelling largely on the mystery and adventure of escaping the city and Giver concentrating more on what is lost and missing in such a community (granted, Ember still contained the same theme and I thought a lot about if, but it wasn't as overt).

The writing style was easy to follow and the story line was concise and interesting. Through the first many chapters, I grew close to the main character, Jonas, and enjoyed his perspective and his thought processes.

Once he received his assignment as the next Receiver, many new revelations came to light. Up until he met the Giver I wasn't entirely sure of the direction the book would take. I still wasn't entirely sure where it would go, but the message and intent became more clear.

It was interesting to me some of the things I didn't realize were missing in the book prior to meeting the Giver. Once Jonas meets and begins his training with the Giver, he becomes more "awake" to the state of the world and more aware of his surroundings. Naturally, his descriptions become more vivid. Looking back at earlier sections of the novel, I wasn't aware of some of the simple adjectives that were missing from the descriptions. I must have just chalked it up to the simple writing of a younger book...but now that I know better, I attribute it to the artful direction of a talented author using his writing style to propel his message.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to picking up more books by Lowry. My biggest complaint is with the ending of the book. Don't get me wrong...I don't mind "sad" or even "ambiguous" endings. In fact, my wife will tell you how much I love depressing stories. What I felt was lacking from this book was more sense of closure.

I don't want to spoil the ending, but be warned that this paragraph may allude to elements, so skip it if you like. I didn't mind not knowing the exact nature of the lights Jonas saw at the end. I can be hopeful that they indicate a positive ending, but even if they are elements of a sad ending, that's alright.

What was missing for me was closure as to the results of his final actions. What happened in the community? I realize that Lowry probably didn't want to spell things out exactly because he wants to leave a sort of "call to action" for the reader. Still, I wanted a few pages about what happened in the community...whether or not Jonas' theories were valid...even if the book ended before a resolution happened. I wanted to know whether or not Jonas' actions were valid and justified or whether they were ineffective and futile. I wanted to see some hope of change for the community rather than leaving it completely nebulous.

OK, now that I've added sufficient ambiguity to all those who haven't read it, I hope you'll take my call to action and go read it yourself. It's a fairly short book with quick reading and a thoughtful message.

4 stars


Kevin said...

I enjoyed this book as well. I haven't read it for a few years and may pick it up again now after reading your review.

Brii333 said...

i haven't had the chance to read "The Giver" yet, but after reading your reveiw, i may bump it up a bit farther on my list.

have you read "What Happened to Lani Garver" by Carol Plum-Ucci? you seem like you might like it.

Okie said...

Let me know if you like reading it again Kevin.

Brii, I haven't read Lani Garver, but I'll add it to my list.

Kelvin Oliver said...

I have this book from back in high school and I loved it. This IS a favorite book. I have not yet read the sequel the author published to this book. I believe it is called Messenger and there may be a third one, but I am not quite sure, but I do know there is a second one.

Okie said...

Cool...I'll have to keep a lookout for the follow-ups. For now, the next Lowry book on my list is Number the Stars

Lisa Moore said...

I loved "The Giver" as a teenager and just read it again this last week. I agree that I didn't care for the ending and wished there had been just one more chapter. I think the lights at the end are Christmas lights though. It's interesting how different the book is reading it now that I have my own children too - much different than when I was a teen.