More 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!