Illustrated by Lewis Lowry
Chapter Book: 5-8
Stars: 5 (out of 5)
Having read this book while I was in middle school, I assumed it would be a light read the second time. Maybe I just have a poor memory, or maybe I have grown and matured as both a reader and a person, but this second time around was a much more powerful experience. I’m not sure if I just noticed more of the subtle, yet powerful details this time around, or if my prior experience with the book had been shallower. Regardless, after this experience, I walked away from the book with a much greater appreciation of the wonderful writing that made this book such as enjoyable read.
The setting of this book is so unique and interesting, that it immediately draws the reader in. As the reader, we are thrown into the story, learning bits and pieces of the time and place as we read further. Things are not explained in the beginning of the story but rather, unravel as we read deeper into the book. This technique that Lewis Lowry uses really draws the reader in. We want to keep reading to find out more information and help make sense of the information that we already have. Since the story takes place in such an unfamiliar place, we cannot fill in the blanks simply by relying upon our own life experiences. Instead, we must rely upon the story.
Jonas, as a character, is very dynamic, experiencing tremendous growth over the course of the story. He begins as this young, sheltered boy, simply enjoying his youth. That all changes once he attends the committee of twelve and is assigned his role in the community as the receiver. As soon as his job training begins, his world is turned upside down, as he has to face hardships that threaten to destroy his idea of life in his community. As readers, we embark on this journey with Jonas, and thus, experience the pain and confusion that he experiences. At the end, we feel very close to Jonas and have developed a strong, emotional connection with him, hoping that he does not die in the final pages.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the focus on the power of words. Repeatedly during the story, characters are reminded to be careful with their words, as words have incredible power and should not be used haphazardly. I particularly liked this component, for I agree that words carry tremendous power and can largely influence those around us. At the same time, Lowry uses powerful and specific words to help tell Jonas’ story. His choice in language plays an important role in the telling of the story. Thus, I find it a bit ironic that the characters discuss the power of words in the context of the story.
I can understand why this book might be considered to be controversial, as there is exploration of death, suicide, and euthanasia. At the same time though, there is a great deal that can be learned from this book. It is a strong story that could definitely find a place in a classroom. When faced with the opportunity to fight for controversial literature in my future classroom, this would definitely be a book that I would fight for. Death is as struggle that many students have to face, and this book provides the perfect springboard into discussing a topic. While death is talked about in The Giver, it is talked about in a very humbling manner, as something that naturally descends upon us all, and is not a weakness or something to fear. While suicide and euthanasia play a small part as well, they are aspects of the story that may not be clear to all readers, and a following discussion could be very enlightening and powerful for students. Overall, even with the controversy, this book is arguably one of my favorite pieces of literature, and I feel very strongly about its merits and strengths as a work of art.