About the Book

Title: The Giver (The Giver #1)
Published: 1993
Series: The Giver

Cover Story: Incognito or Iconic
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Precision of Language
Bonus Factor: Dystopia False Utopia, Equilibrium
Relationship Status: Better Late Than Never

Cover Story: Incognito or Iconic

A black & white photo of a somber Santa? Why, that doesn’t say YA at all!

But there’d be no fooling a fellow bookworm, methinks. I remember seeing this cover EVERYWHERE when I was a kid, and I would have recognized it even before I read it. And aside from saying “YOU NEED THIS BOOK IN YOUR LIFE NOW“, that big ol’ Newberry Medal is a dead giveaway that this is YA.

The Deal:

Hey, you! Yes, you! Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a society where all members are treated as equals? How’d you like to never worry about where your next meal is coming from? Or how to pay for the roof over your head? And there’s no such thing as unemployment!

Of course, you won’t be able to make your own decisions about your own profession. Or your spouse. Or basically anything other than the words coming out of your own mouth, but even that’s under regulation.

Welcome to Sameness, where the annual Ceremony of Twelve is approaching. While other children receive typical career assignments, Jonas has been selected for special training with the Giver. During this apprenticeship, Jonas begins to question the seemingly perfect world that he lives in.

BFF Charm: Yay!

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

I’d offer to adopt Jonas, but I don’t think he needs me as a parent since he’s already so self-sufficient. (Plus: I am a mess of a human.) Even before his training begins, Jonas already has enough awareness to doubt the stifling confines of Sameness. I also love vicariously experiencing everything that has been suppressed, as well as Jonas’ reactions of, “HEY this shizz is awesome! Why can’t everyone enjoy this?”.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

There’s virtually no swoon here, although Jonas is of A Certain Age and receives his first Stirrings. The way how love and attraction have been clinically deconstructed by Sameness is a bit amusing.

Talky Talk: Precision of Language

Sameness is all about precision of language: no hyperboles, euphemisms, or purple prose. That’s also the case with this book itself; to quote an ’00s Canadian punk rock band, it’s all killer, no filler. Aside from the superb narration, Lowry is also great with dialogue-heavy scenes. It’s a major pet peeve of mine when two characters are having a back-and-forth but keep saying each others’ names.* Lowry treats her readers as being smart enough to follow a conversation without hand-holding, and I love appreciate that.

* No statement needs that much emphasis. And who the hell else would you be talking to?! Your convo partner is RIGHT THERE.

Bonus Factor: Dystopia False Utopia

I can’t help it, y’all; I’m still a dystopia junkie!* But a major issue I have with a lot of them (incl. my faves) is how these Evil Empires manage to stay in power for so long before a Plucky Young Hero(ine) takes them down, which is why I prefer false utopia instead. At least there’s more of a ‘greater good’ incentive for people to submit to the twisted logic of the land.

* Probably helps that I only read ones that come highly recommended (shameless self-promotion)!

Bonus Factor: Equilibrium

So how does one keep a society of people docile and complacent? With drugs, of course! Which instantly reminds me of Equilibrium. But seeing as The Giver predates Equilibrium by nine years, it should really be the other way around. In any case, I’ll choose to pretend that Jonas grows up to be a badass like John Preston.

Casting Call:

Apparently an adaptation is in the works, and the Dude will be the Giver. If it was up to me, the only criteria I’d follow would be age and eye colour, i.e., colourblind casting FTW!

Relationship Status: Better Late Than Never

You know how it goes — I’ve known this book for years, but I’ve never been interested in it like that. But we run in the same circles, and our mutual friends keep suggesting that I give you a shot. And Book, I’m so glad that I did! Although a part of me wishes it could have happened sooner, I’m just happy that you’re a part of my life from now on.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.