13 February 2012

Book Review: The Giver

Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher/Year: Bantam / 1993
Source/Format: Shelves / Print
Date Finished: 10 February 2012
Book # 7

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

The Short and Sweet of It
When Jonas turns Twelve, his world shifts. He lives in a community of structure and discipline. Everything is in order. Everyone is in order. But when he receives his Assignment, he becomes separate, singled out for training as the Receiver, the one person with memories, the one person with true feelings and knowledge.

A Bit of a Ramble
I think I should absolutely love this book, and I did right up to the end, and then bah. I found the ending very unsatisfactory. Typically, I don't mind a bit of mystery at the end, a mild lack of closure, but to me, the end of this book is completely abstract. I don't feel like there is any resolution whatsoever and that just frustrates me.

But to the good parts: The world is simple enough to be easily understandable to middle schoolers, but detailed enough to lend weight to the plot. Jonas is a likeable character who comes to the realization that life is more than his world allows gradually and organically; in other words, readers can easily believe in his transition. There's enough side detail (subplots, other characters) to not only keep readers interested but to also add import to the overarching plot line. And some of those side details are pretty freaking serious for the intended audience by the way.

But damn that ending. I just didn't freaking like it. The ambiguity feels disingenuous, more like a cop out than an artistic choice. I get that readers can "choose their ending", which apparently fits along with the theme of choice which runs throughout the book; but no. When I read a book, I want the author to make the ending. I don't want to "choose" how a book ends. I really think this one would have received a Buy rating if not for the ending. Okay, rant over.

On a side note, I was trying to figure out if I had ever read this before. I'm sure I have since the copy I have on the shelves had most definitely been read (and many times), but I didn't have any real memory of the book. It was strange. Like I wasn't surprised by what was happening, but I didn't "remember" it either.

Question: Was anyone else annoyed by this ending? It certainly seems like I'm the only one.

Totally read this out loud to Madison, so technically, it is her first book. :)


  1. I didn't mind the ending myself, but the good news is that the two (soon to be three) sequels resolve the ambiguity :P

  2. The kids and I read the trilogy, and this was our favorite of the three. To me, it was the perfect example of how a kids book doesn't have to be dumbed down because it is a kid's book! But I just asked my son about the ending. I didn't remember it being frustrating at all. And you know why? Because we find out what happened to him in "The Messenger"! All three books are loosely linked together.

  3. I was definitely bothered by the ending, though I still consider this one of my favorite books. It helped reading the two sequel-like books, though to give you warning up front, the second book has the same sort of ambiguous end. I just saw from Ana's comment above that there's a fourth book in the works?? :O

    I think the reason I loved this book so much is there's one part when I was so shocked by a revelation (it involved an apple and a sled) that I actually shivered when I read it. That has never, ever happened to me in any other book. It was like that revelation just flipped my brain over onto itself. I didn't see it coming at all. Usually I at least suspect SOMETHING'S coming, but I was completely clueless on that one.

  4. I actually really loved the ending as a kid. It was the first ambiguous ending, and I felt like such a rebel by imagining them freezing to death at the end, giving myself a downer ending. Of course, the sequels invalidate that (I hate it when that happens—The Magicians is another example, because I really loved that ambiguous ending), but I really appreciated it.

  5. I haven't read this one, but I do have a copy, and gave it to my son and daughter to read before me. I do sometimes like an ambiguous ending, but not when it feels like a cop out, and not when it leaves me feeling unsatisfied. Now you've got me all anxious about reading this one so I can find out how the ending sits with me! Great review!

  6. The ending was unsatisfying … I'll agree to that. I forgave it because I really enjoyed the rest of the book though. That is some first book!!

  7. I'm going to admit that I am sniffling a little because you didn't love it, but I guess I can understand why. I really liked the two sequels as well and they do offer a little more information about what happens "after."

  8. My older daughter and I read this book years ago and loved it. But yes, I was bothered by the ending.

  9. I STILL haven't read this one yet. :( I'm wondering what I'll think of it. Not very many people like it.

  10. I don't particularly like the book, but I like TEACHING the book. I know you know what I mean. Ending, bleh.

  11. I've read this one a few times and found something different to enjoy each time. I'm blanking out on the ending though...hmmm...maybe it is time for another reread. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts on it!

  12. Prepare for a 3 point comment!

    1 - Yeah, the ending was pretty meh to me too.

    2 - When I would teach this book I would tell the kids later in the year not to bug me or I'd be tempted to release them.

    3 - So, I met Lowry at NCTE last year and she was SO RUDE! Like serious are-you-kidding-me rudeness. Here I am TOTALLY excited...waiting in line...bubbly because she was THE FIRST AUTHOR I EVER TAUGHT and I was gonna get her to sign a book. Total #fangirl moment right? Yeah, I get up to her and gush: This is so exciting! I taught The Giver to my kids who hated to read and they loved it. Her response?
    LL - Yes. You can't even imagine how many times I've heard that.

    Me = Deer in headlights. #crushed

  13. Read this years ago as a kid, and still love the book today. Like the other commenters said, there are two companion books, that eventually tie up some unanswered questions. Glad you enjoyed it, despite the ending .

  14. When I reread the book the second time, I had completely forgotten MAJOR plot points, like what happened to the other twin. How could I even forget that? I don't know, but I think the character's trauma helped me block it from my mind. I had the same experience with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I think both books are pretty amazing, so. You are not alone there.

  15. Same exact reaction you had. Yup, that damn ending. I'm kind of bummed about Christina's comment about meeting her!


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