The Giver

I kind of have first day of school butterflies in my tummy as I write this post. I’ve been so excited to be a part of the bookclub bloggers. Now as I write and post this I feel all nervous and giddy. Eeeeee, it’s finally here.

In case you don’t know what I'm talking about, I’ll give you the quick and dirty. Charlotte over at The Daily Snapshot is hosting the inaugural meeting of the bookclub bloggers. Once a month we’ve committed to read a selected book and then, since we’re all spread out and can’t get together to chat about it, we’re having a linky party at her blog to share our thoughts.

This month we read Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

The book was first published in 1993 and won the 1994 Newbery Award. It also holds the distinction of being one of the most frequently challenged and banned books since its publication. Dubbed “The Suicide Book” the controversy was covered by USA Today in 2001. That, for me, just made it so much more exciting to read. Though, I must admit I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. (And I rarely am when it comes to banned books… probably a whole other post.)

The Giver was a treat for me from the moment I picked it up. Having never read the novel before, I had no idea what I would discover inside that easily recognizable cover. I was tickled when I learned it was a work of science fiction. Though I’ve only read a handful in my life, science fiction (well, well written science fiction: Bradbury, Huxley, Atwood, and now Lowry) is fast becoming one of my newest indulgences. The world created by Lowry in The Giver did not disappoint.

I must admit I was initially intrigued and enticed by the seemingly "Utopian" society in which Jonas, Lowry’s 12 year old protagonist, inhabits. A world free of stress and strife, where the tough decisions are either dictated or removed all together sounded a teeny tiny bit appealing for a moment or twenty. Deeply felt emotions can get messy and who wouldn’t like a world where people are forced to be polite. (Well, I wouldn’t want to be forced to be polite, but it would be nice if everyone else was forced to be polite to me.) So, I'm admitting that maybe for a second I considered Jonas’ world to be enviable. Which, I believe, is the beauty of Lowry’s prose; she draws the reader in and you become invested in this world she has created. But just when you feel bizarrely at ease she flips the script. Slowly that initial comfort and attraction is stripped away as more and more truth is revealed.

And boy oh boy do I love a book where the ending is left up for interpretation. Certainly there are some clues that point toward Jonas’ actual fate, but there are more than a few questions the reader is left asking. I. Love. That. For me there is nothing better than a book that continues to mess with your mind long after you finish its final paragraph. I believe I’ve finally settled on an ending that I find satisfying for now. (I won’t share it here in case you haven’t read it… and if you haven’t read it, go read it. Like now.) But, I have a feeling that if I were to pick up The Giver and re-read it several years from now, I may come to a totally different conclusion. It is that kind of book. The Giver is nuanced and rich without ever feeling overworked or dense. Lowry packed a mighty story into a mere 180 pages, and she did it with style and intelligence and most importantly she did it without making the reader a passive observer. When reading The Giver I couldn’t help but engage and interpret and imagine and analyze.

That being said, I did find myself occasionally having to just let go and go with the story. There were a few loose ends that I had difficulty connecting. With a couple details that don’t seem to fit the reader is asked once or twice to suspend disbelief. But when we’re talking about science fiction, is that really a surprise?

In the end, Lowry manages to present a compelling story, characters that the reader quickly cares about and a world that will mess with your mind.

I'm curious about Lowry’s companion pieces Gathering Blue and Messenger written several years later. Apparently the three are part of a trilogy. Has anyone read them? Are they worth my time?