S. J. Kelley

Book Review: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

thegiver2/5 stars

“The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.” — Amazon

I’ve had “The Giver” on my to-read list for some time, and eventually bought a very nice hard cover edition of the quartet some time ago (beautiful book; love it when they have the ribbon bookmarks in the hard covers). The book has since languished on my shelf. Then the other night I found myself too exhausted to read, yet too worn out from the day to go to sleep and face another after a long blink, and so I combed through the offerings on Netflix looking for some easy to absorb escapism. Then I saw that they had made a movie of The Giver in 2014. I looked up the trailer on YouTube and was intrigued. But of course, I can’t watch the movie before reading the book. So what did I do at 9:15 pm when I had to wake up the next morning at 6:30 am?

I decided that I would finish the book then and there.

Although I read about a page a minute, and the book is slim, it still took me 3 hours. The next workday was rough, let me tell you. And to be honest, I don’t think it was worth it.

After the first few pages I was really interested; I felt that Veronica Roth of Divergent fame must have read this book at some point. But then the story failed to launch for me. Granted, this is an old book, and perhaps the “science of the art” of commercial fiction wasn’t as prominent back then, but I felt it was a slow, slow launch into the story. And then, just as things were getting started, it was over. The midpoint felt like it should have been an inciting incident, and the ending felt like it would have been a great midpoint, where the protagonist finally switches from being reactive to being proactive. Yet the book just ENDS! And it ends AMBIGUOUSLY!

I am not a fan of non-endings. I thought to myself, “Surely the next book will pick up where this left off. Maybe I’ll just read a chapter or two.” But the next book had completely different characters. Frustrating.

I understand that Lowry won a Newbery for this. I understand that 83% of readers on Amazon give this 4-5 stars. But I just didn’t like it. As I was reading I had this strange feeling that I was reading a literary novel wrapped in genre paper, but the literary side wasn’t true literary, and the genre side wasn’t real either. I dunno. It just wasn’t for me.

That said, the ending did pull at my heart strings; I loved the relationship between Jonas and Gabe. So after throwing the book on my night stand in a huff, I proceeded to spend 20 minutes surfing the internet in an effort to find out if the ending was just a hypothermic hallucination or the real deal (while trying not to ruin the remaining books in the series). Thankfully I did find out, but learned that I would have to read all four books to have this resolved.

I’m not sure if I’m willing to make that commitment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *