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Mirkat Always Reading

I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.

Giving Us More Implausible Worlds

The Giver - Lois Lowry, Ron Rifkin

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:


Release from the community is a ritual that occurs for the elderly when they reach a certain advanced age, but also to those who break community rules too many times (three strikes and you're out), to babies who at age one are insufficient in some way (failure to thrive, failure to sleep through the night), or to the smaller of identical twins (identical twins = disorderly).  As far as Jonas knew, release meant the person was moving on to some other community.  He knew that his father, who worked as a Nurturer, was to release a newborn twin.  When Jonas expressed curiosity about the process to the Giver, the Giver allowed him to watch a video recording.  What he discovered was that "release" is actually "lethal injection," and watched in horror as his father delivered that injection to the infant's forehead, and then put him in a box, only to drop the box down a trash chute.  Then he learns that the toddler his father had been taking home nights, after a special dispensation from "release" at age one, was to be released.  While the Giver and Jonas had devised a plan where the Giver was to smuggle him to another community, Jonas decides he has to leave on his own earlier than intended, to rescue the toddler he and his family call Gabe (before the official naming ceremony, babies are known by number, based on their order of birth that year).

(show spoiler)


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

Jonas and Gabe arrive at another community after a harrowing journey, but neither one is on the verge of dying from a bullet wound, nor are they greeted by an adversary.

(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.