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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Giver shows young readers a key example of a utopian novel. It also encourages them to think critically about a life without pain, love, or desire.
The cost of utopia can be dystopia. A life without suffering is, by nature, a life without love.
Positive Role Models
Jonas risks his life to save a toddler. He realizes that he no longer cares for himself; all that matters is rescuing Gabriel.
Violence & Scariness
Jonas is horrified when he learns that unwanted members of their society are executed. He also receives memories of war, and feels the pain and thirst of a wounded soldier. Jonas falls from a bicycle and cuts his leg.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Jonas begins experiencing "stirrings" and sexual dreams, but the only one he describes in detail involves realizing that he wants a girl his age to remove her clothes.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
As soon as they enter puberty, children begin taking a daily pill to control "Stirrings."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lois Lowry's The Giver is a thoughtful and original novel that examines a flawed utopian society. In the world of the book, a "Receiver" holds all of the community's memories connected with pain, love, and desire so that no other people experience those feelings. The Giver is the first of a four-volume series, and it won the 1994 Newbery Medal. Lowry adapted it for an excellent graphic novel in 2019, and it was made into a 2014 film. The novel has a few disturbing scenes, such as when Jonas experiences the suffering of a wounded soldier, and when he learns that his community euthanizes unwanted people. There are also mild references to sexual desire ("stirrings"). The Giver is an excellent and thought-provoking example of a dystopian novel, and it is often assigned in fifth grade or middle school English classes.
Is It Any Good?
This classic dystopian novel is not only entertaining but also a perfect book to discuss in a family or classroom setting. The Giver examines the trade-offs of a utopian society through the eyes of a sensitive 12-year-old boy. Author Lois Lowry invites readers to consider the pros and cons of Jonas' community and imagine a life without highs and lows. Is a life with no suffering worth living without music or color? Would you give up love if it meant never feeling pain? Jonas is a beautifully realized, big-hearted 12-year-old living a rich individual life in a colorless, faceless world, and his predicament is intensely compelling.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.