I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.
I finished this during a ten-mile run. I was just finishing mile six when the recording ended. WHAT?!?!?! Fortunately, I had back-up entertainment, as I'd brought the earpiece to my phone, allowing me to use the phone's radio.
So, I'll just say it outright: I don't believe the world presented in The Giver would ever happen. I don't believe a society would organize itself into the community that this book presents. There is no choice in this society. As I've mentioned in another post, all birthdays are celebrated on the same day in December. No one really has a sense of their own individual birthday, and birthdays are not even observed anymore beyond the all-important Ceremony of Twelve. That is when these children are told what calling the Council of Elders has chosen for them, based on a year of stalking intensive observation, after which they will begin an apprenticeship year. These elders are known for choosing paths that are just right for each person. Spouses are also determined by this body of elders, and if the couple applies to have children each family is to be assigned two children: one male and one female. One of the available paths is "birth mother." Birth mothers each carry and birth exactly three children, and during this time, they are pampered. But once they have completed their term as birth mothers, they become lowly laborers. (Implausible!)
So, here is a trope that you will probably recognize if you've been reading a fair number of YA dystopians. Our protagonist, Jonas, is special. While all of his peers receive ordinary assignments, Jonas learns that he has been selected to be the next Receiver. The current Receiver is very, very old, and has decided that it is time to select a new one. What is a Receiver? Well, the Receiver receives the entire community's memories--its history. Knowledge of war, pain, hunger, and even love, colors, music, and what we'd think of as the traditional family, are contained in these community memories. This is knowledge that the rest of the citizens simply do not have. At some point, the community somehow (REASONS!) got rid of colors, snow, rain. They don't have the "grandparent" relationship, as adults whose children have moved into their own dwellings are expected to move into childless-adult housing until they become elders, at which time they move into the community's old-folks' home.
Jonas's training consists of sessions where the current Receiver (known to Jonas as "the Giver") transfers memories to him by placing his hand on Jonas's back. The process begins to change him in a profound way, especially once he experiences love. He stops taking a daily medication everyone takes after feeling the first "stirring" (for him signaled by a lusty dream he shared with his parents during the required telling of dreams). He begins to believe that their society needs to be changed, that all of these memories should be shared. Which is what would automatically happen if he were to escape their community.
One of the things that really breaks Jonas is learning the truth behind "release." Spoiler tags for this:
The ending somewhat reminded me of the way The Knife of Never Letting Go ends, but in a less egregious version. Somewhat spoilery about Knife as well as the ending of The Giver:(show spoiler)
I know I sound as though I have been very negative about this book, so WTF on three stars, but despite my "Gah, implausible" reactions, I am intrigued and willing to stick with this trilogy [Edit 2016: I now know it's a quartet.] at least into the next installment. I'm curious to see where Lois Lowry is going with all this.