The Giver by Lois Lowry - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry Book Cover
Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community.
Series: The Giver
Available from: | Amazon UK | Amazon US

I’ve seen The Giver banded around a few Facebook groups, people talking about it being such a great book, but not being properly regarded as a classic. This seems like a good enough reason to read it.

Having now read it, I can say that it absolutely should.

This book is excellent on so many levels. It’s one that makes you think about the deeper meaning and motifs covered, as well as exploring more subtle meanings.

Set in a utopian society, The Giver explores the narrative of living within a self-contained village. Those living there are never allowed to leave, through both fear of the unknown, and the fear of being ostracised.

Told from the perspective of a third-party narrator, we observe all that Jonas sees, which means we’re able to learn new details as they emerge in his eyes.

The language throughout is both simple and straight-forward, which lends to the nature of the book’s ease of reading. Simplicity also helps to contrast the more profound philosophical meanings that are portrayed throughout.

As Jonas becomes the new Receiver of Memory, he becomes emotionally aware of the world around him and curious about the feelings being withheld by the controlling elders. The receiver of memory is the one person in the community who can hold onto memories from previous generations, feel the warmth, in addition to the pain they bring; passing them on to the next receiver when the time is right.

The problem arises when Jonas believes he can no longer live within the confines of his community, but who does he turn to, and at what cost?

Jonas is an incredibly credible boy who’s just about to be given his life’s work at the age of 12. The changes that will have significant repercussions on his life is also a metaphor for puberty, and the physical, on top of the emotional strain this will cause him.

There are similar themes to those found in Brave New World, although The Giver is much more accessible with its use of language. The more complex world-building is simplified here, allowing for an easier read overall.

And as with Brave New World, I absolutely love this book. I don’t feel I can stress that enough. Please, please, please do yourself a favour and go get yourself a copy.

It’s both fun and laidback while holding the philosophical outlook that other books could only dream of.

Sure, the book isn’t totally original, and the fact it’s aimed more towards children is going to go against it’s standing within the dreaded ‘Literary Circle’, however, it does tell its story well – and to the point.

What makes this book so great is the ending. You can choose to interpret it however you want. Many readers have come up with different theories, but I choose to believe in a positive conclusion.


Much like Before I Go To Sleep, The Giver focuses on the importance that memory serves in our lives. It’s what allows us to grow as human beings, learning from our mistakes as well as forging new relationships. Without your memories, who are you?

The elders decided that the community should give up pain, and the only way to achieve this was to remove everybody’s memories. It’s in our minds that we hold onto pain, along with grief and regret, along with stopping the society from engaging in nostalgic activities.

Individuality is likewise removed from the village as no-one has any sense of the outside world, what makes them different, or even how life was previously.

This books listed on many US and Canadian High-School reading lists but is also one of the most challenged. I guess this is due to its religious undertones and general fearmongering, a little ironic for America don’t you think?

Closing Thoughts

Although aimed at Young Adults, The Giver still holds up as an excellent read for any adult wanting something quick and thought-provoking.

Granted, it’s not the most original, and at times feels like a watered-down Brave New World, but it does entertain none-the-less.

Hardcore Sci-Fi fans may be put off by the lack of world-building, as everything is contained to one small village, losing the appeal of a futuristic world.

On a plus note, the ending does leave much open to interpretation. Leave your comments below on what you think happened.

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