by Lois Lowry
THE GIVER BEGINS Lois Lowry’s beloved quartet series with a haunting story that revolves around a boy named Jonas who is apprehensive about turning twelve. The Ceremony of Twelve is the last of the ceremonies – the most important - when each Twelve is assigned their crucial life assignment in the Community, and their age is no longer recorded. At the ceremony, Jonas was not assigned like his peers, but rather chosen, to be the Receiver of Memory. It is the most prestigious and honorable position held by a Community’s Elder, whose purpose is to be the sole keeper of memories; and with his Capacity to See Beyond, to impart wisdom and guidance in the Community.
Ms. Lowry builds a seemingly ideal, if colorless, Community of conformity and contentment, or Sameness. But as the storyline unfolds, she very subtly and effortlessly reveals the strangeness of this Utopia. As The Giver (former Receiver of Memory) begins to pass on his memories to Jonas, Jonas slowly gains the capacity to “see beyond” and to comprehend the dark and deadly secrets behind his fragile Community. In order to save himself and those he loves dearly, he plots to escape the Community—a challenge that takes the story to a fever pitch.
This is a deeply thought-provoking book; both in its emotionally oppressed dystopia, and in its rich characters. I couldn’t help but fall in love with sweet and docile 2-year old Gabriel, whose inability to sleep through the night puts him in grave danger of being “released.” Fearful of any harm that might come to him, I devoured the last few chapters of the book, rushing breathlessly to the end. Perhaps, this is because I have young sons myself. The story left me feeling highly satisfied and I look forward to reading Gathering Blue.