I mentioned at the end of my last post that I had never read The Giver before. I’ve been meaning to get around to it since 6th grade (which may have had something to do with it being the 6th book I read for this project) when close friend told me it was her favorite book, but it just never happened, and I’m about to be completely, 100% honest with you about why.
I didn’t like the cover.
No matter how many amazing things I heard–good reviews, recommendations from friends, comparisons to other books that I loved–I couldn’t get past the cover. No matter how intrigued I felt from what I’d heard, looking at the cover immediately un-intrigued me.
Everyone knows you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. There’s a whole cliché surrounding this fact. But the truth is, we do it. I read an article a while back pointing out reasons that J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym’s book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, didn’t really sell until people found out she wrote it, and one of the main reasons listed is that the cover was wholly inappropriate for the content of the book. The cover of a mystery novel shouldn’t look all swirly and romantic.
Similarly, I feel that the cover of a YA Dystopia shouldn’t be some bearded old dude.
Don’t get me wrong–I understand the cover. Having now read the book, the cover makes perfect sense to me. Even the trees in the corner make sense now. I still believe, though, that there could be a better cover design. Maybe in a few years, they’ll release a 25th Anniversary Edition with something more captivating.
Tell me I’m wrong.
Anyway, I loved this book, and it’s definitely a must-read for any lover of dystopian literature, whether you’re a YA fan or not.
As I usually find with dystopian literature, when I started reading The Giver, I found that the world sounded, well, not bad at all. I liked the idea of the feelings talk after dinner; it seemed like it would make for some extremely well-adjusted children if it were done right. I liked the amount of ritual involved in growing up–the yearly ceremony where you “graduate” to the next age–and I think that’s something that we’re lacking in modern American society. There’s no real coming of age ritual, and I can’t help but wonder if there’s a connection between that lack and the amount of people in their 20s and 30s who don’t feel like “real adults.” I know I’m not the only one.
I also didn’t hate the idea of being assigned to a profession. It sounds horrible, especially since I think I’ve heard that that’s what they do in China and thinking that anything they do in China sounds like a good idea seems decidedly un-American. But right now, and I’m sure this is another thing that stems from me being in my mid-20s, I occasionally wish that someone would just figure all this shit out for me and I could be off the hook. Now, this definitely isn’t something that I really want–it just sounds nice once in a while.
The world started seeming horrible when Jonas’s mother gave him a pill to control his “stirrings.” It made sense, of course–if no one wants to have sex, no one will beat the shit out of anyone for hooking up with the wrong person, and no one will murder any prostitutes, and the Trojan War won’t happen. But it just really don’t seem worth it to live with no passion, and this was the point where I could really tell how flat everyone’s feelings were. I also wondered (though not until later) why people had mates when they didn’t make the babies themselves and they didn’t experience any sort of sexual desire. It seemed like the need had been eliminated, but the practice stuck around out of, what, tradition? Nothing else in this world really seemed to exist because of tradition.
Then I got to the point where the Giver explains to Jonas that what he’s seeing is color, and I realize (a) why the cover is mostly black and white, and (b) that I think this world sucks more than the world in The Hunger Games.
I’d had a feeling from the beginning that being “released” either meant you were killed or you were set free into a world that would definitely kill you, but I would be surprised to learn that anyone reading the book thought, as Jonas did, that people went and lived elsewhere once released.
I’m curious as to whether people think Jonas lives at the end. After finishing, I’m about 99% sure that he started hallucinating and he and Gabriel both froze to death. I don’t think there’s an elsewhere. I wish I could be more optimistic, but this book doesn’t really instill that feeling in its readers. I didn’t have a great feeling from the minute they started planning the escape–it seemed a bit rushed and short-sighted. I also thought the Giver’s decision to help Jonas escape and free his memories was a bit sudden, and I would have liked to know more about why he changed his mind.
Now, has anyone read the rest of the quartet? Should I check it out? I feel like I’ve heard so much about The Giver, but never anything about the other books Lowry wrote, so I don’t know if this is really the only one worth reading or if I just haven’t heard about them. Let me know if you’ve read them!
And, for book seven: