1990s Recommended books

The Giver – Lois Lowry

Winner of the Newberry Medal, 1994.

The Giver is set in a futuristic world where all aspects of society are governed by strict rules.  All pain is removed by strong medicine and all feelings (from emotion, to hunger, and cold) have been eradicated; even colours and music have been removed, to provide a “sameness” which protects the inhabitants from fear.

Every year ceremonies are held in which 12-year-old children are assigned their future role in society. Jonas is honoured with the task of being the “receiver of memory”. He is sent to learn the secrets of the world, from the tired, old Giver. He quickly learns the truth behind his community, and has to decide what to do with his new, disturbing knowledge.

Many aspects of the book were reminiscent of The Hunger Games, but The Giver failed to develop the characters as well as those in Suzanne Collin’s futuristic world; this book felt very brief and shallow in comparison.  The beginning was excellent, but it seemed to fizzle out as it progressed, and I found the ambiguous ending a bit of a let down.

There were lots of moral issues high-lighted, and I think it is very beneficial for children to discuss these  – I can see why this would make an excellent text for children to study at school. The book questions the structure of our society, and whether it is better to be dictated to by others, or have the freedom to make our own choices. This book was temporarily banned from many schools in America (ironically, increasing it’s profile!) as it was thought that the themes of euthanasia and violence were inappropriate for the young. There were brief passages of violence, but these were not graphic, and were important to the message of the book,  I wouldn’t hesitate to give this to a child to read.

This is the first of Lowry’s books I have read, but despite my criticisms I still plan to read the rest of the trilogy soon.

Overall, this is a thought-provoking read, which I highly recommend to all older children, but it lacks the complexity or power required for a satisfying adult read.

Adult Rating: 
Child Rating (8 – 12 years-old?) :  

Have you read this book? Do you enjoy reading books aimed at children, or do you need more complex plots to be satisfied?

I’d love to hear you opinions!