The Giver (by Lois Lowry)

8 10 2013

The_Giver_CoverMore than 25 years after its initial publication, Lois Lowry’s The Giver still holds up as a decent initiation into dystopian MG or YA fiction. However, at the same time, it seems more of an ‘important work’ than a ‘great work’.

There’s no denying that Lowry’s vision in The Giver is still contemporary. The string of dystopian YA novels – Hunger Games, Divergent, to name just the two most obvious series – that has been so incredibly popular with teens in the last so many years proves this. But the book itself – as a standalone, that is – doesn’t really feel very ‘completed’. There’s a more than sufficient build up in the book, fairly slow even, as Lowry introduces her readers to most aspects of the Community and its rules as a rationalization of things to come. Once Jonas meets the Giver, though, the book rushes towards a conclusion, which in and of itself is meaningful (though obviously to be taken with a big grain of symbolism), but I can’t shake the impression that there was more to be done with this book.  It’s true that the picture that is painted here is very black and white (no pun intended, btw), and doesn’t really allow for many shades of grey or color… despite the many issues that are raised! There’s some blatant moralizing going on in this book too, which obviously needs to be put in a certain context, which Lowry in this book does not really provide (maybe she does that in the sequels?).

Anyway, undoubtedly, this is an important book: a book that many a contemporary dystopian MG or YA book (series) shows allegiance to in some way. It may have been newish in 1993 – although Orwell wrote much of the same in his 1984 (in 1949!), obviously – but as far as dystopian MG/YA novels go, there are series out now that far surpass Lowry’s The Giver!

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2 responses

8 10 2013
Joachim Boaz

Doesn’t feel completed? Well, that’s because we’re currently wedded to the idea of trilogies, and epics, and multi-volume let’s all get bogged down in the morass of minutiae experiences that are so part of genre at the moment….. It’s all rather unfortunate, this is a gorgeous mood piece, a rumination, a small vision, the delightful prose, the small indications of deeper meaning… A dystopic poem almost. It doesn’t need more volumes to be complete!

8 10 2013
Ringo the Cat

I actually prefer standalone books over trilogies or multi-volume series myself. As I said, I haven’t read the other ‘Giver’ books, so I don’t know if the things that bothered me here are addressed in those volumes.
I also realize that the appeal of trilogies and multi-book series is an artificial appeal, created by marketing departments to milk that cash cow a little bit longer. Also, I know that Lowry publised 3 more books in this series. Why is that? Is that something she anticipated in 1993 (and are some of the things addressed in later books)? Or did she cave, seeing how well series were doing? I mean, the second book in the quartet was only published in 2000, right?

That being said, looking just at The Giver, I do feel that the book starts to lag in the last 3rd of the book, and it cannot live up to the expectations set in the beginning. The careful buildup of the beginning is gone. I wanted to get a better understanding of the ‘pain’ aspect of the memories, or what about Elsewhere? There seem to be a lot of questions – too many – that don’t get dealt with in a serious way. I get that not every questions need to get an answer, but for me, at the end of the book, there were a few too many unresolved issues for this book to be “complete”.

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