The Giver (1993) – reviewed 4 times previously (3.75 avg)
I love dystopian fiction. Give me a zombie apocalypse or oppressive regime, and I’m happy. Unless we’re talking about really having to live under those circumstances, in which case you can count me out.
So The Giver should be right up my alley. Only….well, it’s written for 14 year olds. It’s not that this isn’t a good book, I’m just 20 years too old for it.
This book is trimmed of any excess. There’s a dearth of characters, little character development (except for Jonas, there is a complete lack of it), cursory descriptions of the world and the motivations for how it came to be the way it is. Which, in a way, makes for a haunting, almost lyrically delicate world.
Everyone is given a role in this society, which is utterly devoid of color, emotion, or diversity. There is no pain, or love, there is no choice, and it’s been this way for generations. One person is tasked with keeping the memory of humanity, and Jonas is apprenticed to him, the Giver.
I think part of my problem with this book is, after having just read The Handmaid’s Tale, I yearn for a stronger indictment of our society. Dystopic fiction works best by holding up a mirror to some problem in our culture, and pushing it to an extreme version of the truth so the error can be highlighted. The society of The Giver assigns women the job of breeding the next generation, only to have their babies taken from them and handed out to the rest of the population. These women are then forced into menial labor for the rest of their lives. It’s a fairly troubling and horrifying reality, but it’s only given cursory attention, here.
Again, none of this is to condemn the book. There’s quite a bit here that I find fascinating; we just never get to fully explore the issues in play, here.
But if I was in the target audience, I don’t know that it’d bother me quite so much.