Book Review, Movie Review, and Rants: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no  choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from the Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back. 

One of the first dystopian novels, The Giver, is truly a masterpiece. It is fast-paced, smart, emotional, and will leave you pondering it for weeks afterword. I read this book once in junior high, one of the few books I chose to actually read through, not just skim (SparkNotes, anyone?). However, that was ten or so years ago. I reread this wonderful book recently, before viewing the movie adaptation. I was not disappointed. It is one of those books that reminds you about life, about why you are here and what you can do. Lois Lowry said, "the man that I named The Giver passed along to the boy knowledge, history, memories, color, pain, laughter, love, and truth. Every time you place a book in the hands of a child, you do the same thing." This is exactly what This Giver did for me, it made me feel

Going into the movie, I was skeptical. I had heard several reviews about it, all coming to the same conclusion: those that had read the book, hated the movie, and those who had not read the book, liked the movie. I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the movie. The movie made me really feel the emotions and the struggle, it made me think about the way we live. Only phenomenal movies can do that. No, the movie did not follow the book page for page, to the letter (though no book-turned-movie ever does). The crucial message remained the same, however, and that is why I loved the movie. 

In the book, a scene unfolds between the Giver and Jonas. Without spoiling the book, here is what happened: "If everything's the same, then there aren't any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things! . . . It's the choosing that's important, isn't it?" The choosing is what's important. I believe we have free agency in this life, that we are able to choose what we do, and how we do it. I also know many, many people who claim to believe in free agency as well. The problem is, do they really? In the movie, the Chief Elder states, "If people had the freedom to choose, they choose wrong. Every time." I believe that, all too often, we act like robots. Wake up. Go to work, school, church. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. We are told to be nice, serve people, love people. All of which are good things, don't get me wrong. What is wrong, is how we treat it like a checklist, and when people don't do exactly what we do, or what we think is 'right', we punish them. Is that free agency? In the book, Jonas comments that, "no one mentioned things; it was not a rule, but was considered rude to call attention to things that were unsettling or different about individuals." As a general population, I think we do the same thing now. We are scared of individuals, of uniqueness, of letting people choose. But that is what is beautiful about the world, about life. We are all here, we are all unique, we all experience things differently, and it's not a bad thing. 

A lot of people will see this movie. A lot of people will walk out, nodding their heads, claiming that we should not all be the same. Yet, it's the idea they love, not acting upon it. We are scared of differences, we judge them, shun people because of them. It is unbearably sad and scary to think that people hate themselves for being different, and/or hate and hurt others because they are different. Why hate someone for feeling differently? Why hate someone for choosing differently? We all have good and bad within us, we all have our weaknesses. Yet we judge people because their weakness is different then our own weakness. What is the point of that? To quote the movie again, "if you can't feel, what's the point?" A lot of people are zealous about the idea service, about helping others, loving others. But how many times do we not serve others, not love others, because they are different? 

Okay, I'm just ranting now. Point is, we all feel. We may feel differently, but we all feel and experience memories, pain, hate, sadness, loneliness, laughter, truth, and love. Second point: it's the choosing that's important. We all have a choice. If we can't choose, and we can't feel, what is the point? And if the freedom to feel and choose matters to you, wouldn't it make sense to let others feel and choose for themselves, too? 

What do you think? 



  1. This book should not be read by children in middle school. This is a very mature piece of work. The child, in the book, is 12, after all... Still a child, nowhere near an adult, and yet chosen to lead an adult life.

    1. Thank you for reading my post, and for your comment. I think it brings up a good point. This book meant something different to me the first time I read it, versus the next few times--as is the case with everything as you grow up and learn things. However, I believe this book is critical for everyone, including middle school aged children, to read.

      Middle school age is a time when you start forming your own opinions about the world, when you are forced to start choosing things for yourself. What better time to read something that emphasizes the fact that we are blessed with the freedom to choose things for ourselves... and how incredibly important that freedom is. We get to choose who we are, how we dress, how we treat others, what we read, what music we listen to, what to believe in, what to support, etc. We are all different and unique, and that is what is important.

      It's important to know that it is okay, nay, more than okay, to be different. That it is more than okay that we think for ourselves and choose for ourselves.

      Again, what better time than middle school age to read a book that tells us: hey, you might not be just like so-and-so, your hair may not be perfect, you may not come from a perfect family, you may be different, but it's GREAT to be different. What's different about you makes you who you are and that, that is important.