REVIEW: The Giver by Lois Lowry

014. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Publication: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 26, 1993), ebook, 210pp / ISBN 0440237688
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Dystopia

Read: January 24, 2012
Source: Bought

Summary from Amazon:

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 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.


I’ve put off reading this book for FOREVER, mainly because I really hate the cover. That old dude? Makes me think of The Cay. And The Cay? Made me cry my eyes out when I was in fifth grade. I hate crying, and I thought The Giver would make me cry, so I stayed away. Simple!

Since I’m a big girl now, though, I figured I could read The Giver and I’d be okay. And I was. And I also kind of wondered what the big deal about this book is. I mean, I liked it. I just don’t see why people are going nuts over this book, which is what happened to some of my friends in high school when they read The Giver for the first time.

The author

I suppose nowadays we’re so used to YA dystopias that the quiet dystopias, the kind of dystopia that’s in The Giver, doesn’t make as much of an emotional impact that it would have done if I’d read this way before I’d read every other YA dystopian book I’ve read. And maybe that’s why the dystopia in The Giver is so insidious: it’s quiet, and sneaky, and I even caught myself thinking “well, that doesn’t sound so bad” a few times. I knew it was a dystopia, but it’s not the overtly evil kind of dystopia that we’re used to, and that kind of threw me off.

Which is good, don’t you think? It makes the reveal (that the utopia is actually a dystopia) that much more creepy. On the other hand, since I’m so used to excitingly evil dystopias, the bland kind of dystopia is…well…bland. Not that bland equals bad, necessarily! Just that it doesn’t make me jump up and down with excitement. No-one dies horrible, no-one’s being chased out of the community, everyone’s equal and well-fed and basically happy. There’s no dissent or unhappiness until Jonas becomes the Receiver, and even then– it’s only two people1 out of how many others living there?

Compared to some other dystopians, this one’s relatively tame.

Still, despite the fact that I thought the dystopian society was boring, I did like The Giver. I liked the writing, and the characters, and I like the whole slow reveal of the utopia’s rotten underbelly. I especially liked the details of the utopia/dystopia, how it’s set up and how the people live in it, though that’s probably just because I have an interest in background technical-y stuff of sci-fi worlds. So, despite the low key dystopia, it’s still a darned good book with an interesting story and not-too-shabby characters. I’m just not madly in love with The Giver, and, you know what? I’m okay with that.


I liked it!


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Other reviews

The Cheap Reader: “The world building is on the simpler side because it is a short book and it is a children’s book. That doesn’t stop the world from being fairly complex though. I like the way that the story started out as almost a utopia. Everything seems so perfect, you almost start considering what it would be like to live in that situation. Soon enough the cracks start to appear.”

The Novel World: ” I think adults reading this book will be disappointed, expecting more depth. There were a few areas where Lowry could have expanded, namely with Jonas’ family and friends. They came across as vague and two-dimensional. Then again, maybe that was Lowry’s intent, to highlight the changes in Jonas before and after his time with The Giver.”

Miss Remmers’ Review: “I like the characters and (while at first the plot moved slowly) I could relate to the plot in an analytical sense. I loved how a part of me, like Jonas, believed that his society or community was perfect but then as the pieces began to fall apart and Jonas’ eyes were (quite literally) opened – my eyes were opened as well.”


The author’s photo comes from a random Google search thing. It’s not mine! Book cover comes from Amazon. It’s not mine, either.


  1. or three, if you count baby Gabe, who’s the most rebellious out of all of them.

12 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Giver by Lois Lowry”

    1. Exactly! Right up until they started talking about colors being gone I’d been thinking “well, that doesn’t sound too bad.” But no colors? No music? No BOOKS?! Eek!

  1. I’m glad that someone else was turned off by the cover. It’s why I’ve never picked it up either! I’m sure I will read it at some point though — it seems everyone gets to it eventually. 🙂

  2. I think The Giver was such a big deal when I was in school (1990’s) because there weren’t quite so many YA dystopian novels at the time. I remember really liking it and I still think I own a copy. I remember that there were a couple of interpretations of the ending too. I took it literally but then later someone else said they thought the ending implied death. Lowry wrote at least two additional novels that are in the same universe as The Giver and that actually settle the question.

    1. I thought the ending meant they died, too! Especially since the sequels apparently don’t star the same characters as in The Giver.

  3. When I read this as a kid, and it was my only experience with dystopian fiction, I thought it was AMAZING. Now I’m older and I have read genuinely amazing and thoughtful dystopian fiction, and The Giver seems…a bit insipid. Alas!

    1. That’s the unfortunate thing about being the forerunner of a genre, I guess! Everyone else builds on and improves what you’ve done, and then your own book ends up lacking. 🙁

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