My rating: 3 of 5 stars
He sat in his dwelling alone, watching through the window, seeing children at play, citizens bicycling home from uneventful days at work, ordinary lives free of anguish because he had been selected, as others before him had, to bear their burden.
Jonas lives in a neat, orderly, world where society has organized every aspect of human lives from their family size to their occupation. When his assignment day comes, he is given the job of being the next Receiver, tasked with receiving the memories all of the world’s history — its pain, its joys, its struggles — so that society can still learn from the past without everyone having to experience it.
Though Jonas’ story is simple, the lessons within this book are far-reaching. Concepts such as free will, quality of life, responsibility, individuality, and perception are all addressed and wrestled with in this novel that will really make you think. In fact, there was even a point where I was on the verge of tears, and for me, that takes a lot (for you that have read it… it was the twin). As I was reading it, I enjoyed all of the simple little details that created the world in which Jonas lived — things like the comfort objects children get until they’re eight. And though the dystopian society is very similar to many others in YA books nowadays (assigned families, assigned jobs, euthanasia, using drugs to control emotions, secrets that only the highest authorities know, etc) this one presents it in a way that even young teens can understand and enjoy.
I will admit, however, that the resolution was left too open-ended for me, and I’m really hoping things will resolve themselves in the sequel and following books. Some of the explanations given for things in the book were really too simplistic for my tastes — I wanted to know how, when, and WHY the community decided to run society as they did. The simple explanation of “war” doesn’t seem to justify the extreme measures, nor does the author ever explain why there were jet planes, why the Giver doesn’t want to give Jonas music (it’s not like he would only have one memory containing it), what happened to the sun, whether or not people actually know about death (maybe it’s just the children that are left ignorant?), or whose DNA is actually given to the new children borne by the Birthmothers. These unanswered questions irritated me to no end, and made the ending feel weak and unpolished.
Overall: A powerful, yet simple story that evaluates the importance of free will, personal experiences, and what can be gained from pain and suffering.