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In pop culture, YADA-YADA usually means "blah, blah, blah" or "more of the same." For this blog, YADA-YADA is an acronym meaning "Young Adult Discussions About Young Adult-Designed Art." Check out my summaries and reviews of teen media. Chime in and let me know what you think!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Blog No. 42 -- The Giver by Lois Lowry

GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry

Bibliographic Information:
Pub. Date: April 1993
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: Hardcover, 192pp
Age Range: 12 and up
ISBN-13: 9780395645666
ISBN: 0395645662

Newbury Medal of Honor 1994

Reader’s Annotation:
It is the future, and at the Ceremony of Twelve (which all must attend during the year of their twelfth birthday) Jonas receives his assignment: to become the next receiver of memory. Because of this, he meets an old man—The Giver—who has all of the memories that he will pass on to Jonah, who will begin to question whether his society is acting in truth, fairness and dignity.

Plot Summary:
Jonas is excited for his birthday, because he soon will attend The Ceremony of Twelve, where he officially becomes an adult and finds out what the community has chosen for his life’s work. In Jonas’s world, everything is regulated. The Rules give each member of society a job so that they are productive in society. His mother works for the Department of Justice, and his father is a Nurturer—someone who takes care of little babies.

Jonas, who is one of the few people who can see the world in color (most people have been altered out of it to prevent racial incidents). At the Ceremony, Jonas is anxious to find out his fate. His friends have been assigned jobs that fit their personalities, like the attendant of the fish hatchery, or the director of recreation. But when Jonas finds out he is to become the Receiver of Memory and will have to endure great pain, he is not so sure his assignment is right. He is scared too. The last person selected for the position failed.

Jonas fear gets worse when he finds out that he cannot share his dreams with anyone. He is allowed to lie—something that he has not b been permitted to do before. Finally he meets The Giver—the old man with pale eyes, like Jonas’s, who needs to pass on all of his memories of the world to Jonas. The purpose? One person needs to know and understand the collective memories of humankind in case “new” problems come up that need to be addressed.

The Giver begins to give his memories to Jonas, which affects him deeply. He begins to feel angry at these group mates, who are all too satisfied with their lives. They don’t see what Jonas sees. His own family begins to feel shallow to him. The more Jonas learns, the more he grows apart from his community and his family. But his sense of “apartness” grows when he learns what his father – The Nurturer—really does: he kills babies. Now Jonas is afraid for the life of his adopted brother, Gabirel.

Critical Evaluation:
I have read this book probably six or seven times, and each time, it just gets better. This is a book that adults can read, and children as young as 12 can read, but I do think it is most appropriate for a high school audience, despite the age of the protagonist. Many of our high school juniors actually use this book to write their major literacy criticism paper. Since twelve is considered an adult for this society, I think the age of the protagonist is irrelevant to the level of the reader. This is truly a YA novel, because its prose is littered with stark detail about the fate of the future—even injecting unwanted or uncooperative babies in the foreheads with a death serum! This is not for the typical twelve-year old despite the reading level. It is a serious YA novel, and in fact it could be a serious novel, period. I mean—for anyone!

Additionally, this is a book that defies the YA categorization. So the powers that be call it a fantasy book for ages twelve and up? I disagree. It is science fiction at a very sophisticated level that happens to include a twelve year old protagonist. Its themes are young adult, and its situations are young adult, although many younger but smart kids read it, and love it as well.

Reading level/Interest Age:
This book is recommended for ages 12 and over by the publisher, but many other websites suggest eleven and up. I think if this were marketed more for an older YA audience, the challenges issues would not be so great.

Information about the Author:
Lowis Lowry was born Lois Hammersberg on March 20, 1937 in Honolulu, Hawaii where she lived until her parents were separated at the start of World War II. She then moved to Pennsylvania, where her grandfather and the Amish people were a huge influence on her life. When she was eleven, her family was reunited n Japan, where her father was stationed during World War II.

Lois received her education at Pembroke College, then went on to attend Brown University, where she met her husband Donald Grey Lowry, and attorney. She began writing when all of her three children were in high school. .

Her 1989 novel, Number the Stars won the Newbury Medal, and she went on to win it for this novel, too. Earlier, she wrote the famous Anastasia Krupnik series, and several other children’s books.

Curriculum Ties:
Surprisingly, it is a core literature book in many high school classes.

Booktalking Ideas:
Jonas is very excited to go through the Ceremony of Twelve—it is the day he becomes an adult and is given his job for life. But when he finds out he is to become the Receiver of Memory and have to go through life filled with the pain of knowing the history of his people and his world (that which everyone else is blissfully unaware) he begins to question his world, the censorship of the truth and the horrible things that really happen to babies who don’t make the cut.

Challenge Issues:
Some alarmist parents may object to the baby-killing and euthanasia scenes in this book. It is one of the top 100 books on ALA’s banned or challenged list. However, this book is a thoughtfully provoking look at what can happen when society buries its collective head in the sand and keeps the truth from its members. We may not always like the truth, but the truth does set us free.

Why I Included This Book
When my daughter, a GATE student was assigned this in the 5th grade, I was skeptical, because I knew it was taught at the high school. We read it separately but discussed it together. She felt it was one of the most important books she has EVER read.

Cover image courtesy of: http://books.google.com/books?id=knkqgp57wJ8C&dq=the+giver+by+lois+lowry+banned&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=eqHkS-KgDo6CsgOjpLS6DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

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