Wow. Just wow.
A much lauded novel, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1994, controversial and moving so it still frequently appears on banned book lists. It's still read and loved too though, coming in a #4 on School Library Journal's Top 100 Children's Novels 2012.
Anita Silvey in her Children's Book-A-Day Almanac describes it as the best children's novel of the 1990s, and one of the best science fiction works of all time. While I'm not sure that I think of it as science fiction, it's a dystopian vision of the future certainly, but I guess I need robots and aliens to make me comfortable with the science fiction tag (even though I know that the sci-fi folks don't necessarily see it that way). The Giver was said to be one of the first dystopian stories, paving the way for recent blockbusters such as The Hunger Games and Matched.
It's hard to know what to say about this book without spoiling it for those who may not have read it yet. Jonas is an 11 year old boy living in a future community when we meet him at the start of the book, living a comfortable life with his parents and younger sister. But it's coming up to December and he's becoming anxious about his upcoming Ceremony of Twelve when he will be assigned his future job.
The Giver is a deceptively simple, but beguilingly complex and powerful story. Lois Lowry shows us the importance of memory, history, love, wisdom and a bond with nature in an extraordinary and moving way.
In her acceptance speech for the Newbery Medal (best read after reading the book) Lois Lowry talks of how the roots of The Giver formed in experiences extending back to her own childhood and later experiences as an adult.
In beginning to write The giver I created – as I always do, in every book– a world that existed only in my imagination – the world of “only us, only now.” I tried to make Jonas’s world seem familiar, comfortable, and safe, and I tried to seduce the reader. I seduced myself along the way. It did feel good, that world. I got rid of all the things I fear and dislike; all the violence, prejudice, poverty, and injustice, and I even threw in good manners as a way of life because I liked the idea of it.
I think that perhaps The Giver will be up among my favourite books of the year. Which is great, but also a bit depressing to think that you might have peaked too early with the first book you've actually read for 2013. I know I will reread this book.