My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m going to present an unpopular opinion here: I wasn’t all that impressed by The Giver.
I really liked what it had to say about knowledge and how people shy away from it because it can be painful – in The Giver, often literally so. I think this is probably the aspect of it that makes so many people rave about this book, why it has become part of the canon in middle school classrooms, why it has become regarded as a classic. Thematically, it was thought-provoking, although not life-changing.
The part that really fell flat for me was the world building, which people who regularly read my reviews or my blog will know by now is my favorite part of fantasy and dystopian works. In the beginning of The Giver, we are introduced to a world without pain, where everyone is blissfuly happy and has their entire lives laid out for them by the Elders. This was an interesting idea, but what I really wanted to know was why. Why did they decide to live in a world like this? I had a hard time suspending my disbelief without knowing this aspect of it.
Probably because of the nature of their world, a lot of the characters felt flat to me. I suppose it could be argued that this put Jonas and the Giver, as the pursuers of knowledge in starker contrast, but mostly I just didn’t care about them. Since the world lacked conflict, the characters did, as well. There was one point where Jonas’ father is faced with a choice, but it’s never really explored outside of “I feel bad about this but I’m going to blindly obey orders,” and that’s the end of it.
Finally, because a lot of things weren’t really explored in great depth – which is hard to do in a book this short, anyway – when Jonas made certain major decisions at the end, I didn’t really care.
The Giver wasn’t a horrible book. There were some interesting ideas played with, but mostly the book just didn’t do it for me. I would say that it’s a book you should read once, just because it’s a classic.