Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

The Giver, Book 1

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Giver, Book 1 Book Poster Image
A riveting utopian novel that's expertly crafted.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 111 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 308 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The cost of Utopia is shown elegantly in this riveting and original novel. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The hero risks his life to save an infant.


Unwanted members of society are executed. Jonas and the baby are lost in winter. Jonas discovers that his father executes unwanted babies.


Young teens bathe the elderly. Jonas begins experiencing "stirrings" and sexual dreams.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lois Lowry earned the Newbery Medal for The Giver, the first of a four-part series that examines a flawed utopian society. The novel has a disturbing scene in which Jonas witnesses his father euthanizing a baby by injecting it with a needle in the head. There are also mild sexual references. But the overall story is riveting -- and the book is one of the most thought-provoking novels for children ever written.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5, 8, and 11 year old Written byAvid book reader May 28, 2010
This book beautifully illustrates why God gave us freedom of choice. Yes, our freedom has resulted in a world full of people who, at times, have and continue t... Continue reading
Parent of a 6 and 11 year old Written byconcernedNAparent May 14, 2009

Not appropriat efor 11 yr olds - maybe 15 yr olds

This site is not looking at the content if it thinks this book is OK for 11 year olds/5th graders. The 2 objectionable parts are sex and infanticide. Sex: Thi... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 20, 2011

Don't be Afraid to feel.

Comparing my review to others you may be wondering why I haven't decided to put the sexual behavior sign. Well, because it isn't necessary. Why you ma... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bywereallmadhere May 25, 2011

this novel is amazing and if you disagree, you don't understand the book

first of all, if you have not read this book entirely, you shouldn't have an opinion about it. this book is simple and direct. the storyline is that you ne... Continue reading

What's the story?

Jonas lives in a perfect society--no pain, no crime, no unhappiness. But when he receives his life assignment to be the Receiver of Memories, he discovers secrets about the past, and the terrible choices that make this world possible.

In the perfect future world in which Jonas lives, 12-year-old children are given their life assignments at the Ceremony of Twelve. Jonas is shocked when he is chosen to be the new Receiver of Memories, a mysterious position of honor held by only one person at a time. He's trained by the previous Receiver, now called the Giver. The training consists of transferring to him memories of a past -- before the imposition of Sameness -- that the others in the community can't even imagine, in which there was war, hunger, and disease, but also color, weather, and strong emotions. Gradually Jonas comes to understand, and resent, the choices that had to be made to create his world, and the terrible secrets behind its perfection. Together he and the Giver concoct a plan to change the way his world works, but before they can carry it out Jonas is forced to make a decision that may destroy them all.

Is it any good?

This book examines a utopian society thoroughly and fairly; it is this fairness that makes the novel so riveting and thought-provoking, and so perfect for triggering discussions. The author is true to her determination not to stack the deck for readers; the ending is deliberately ambiguous, with allegorical overtones, leaving readers to decide what they want to believe.

Jonas' world is very appealing. The community runs by common agreement to its rules; some freedom is sacrificed for security; joy, for avoidance of misery. The choices, which provide the catalyst for discussion, all involve one central decision: to forgo the highs of life in order to get rid of the lows -- to find the middle way. There is a lot to be said for this, though Jonas, speaking presumably for the author, ultimately rejects it. Some children will agree with Jonas, but others will find themselves attracted to a life that is uniformly pleasant, if never exhilarating.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the utopian society depicted in the book.

  • Are the tradeoffs the people have made to get rid of the bad things in life really worth it?

  • What would you be willing to give up in order to have a safe, clean, peaceful society in which everyone is happy and cared for?

  • Do you think Jonas did the right thing?

  • Also, what do you think happens at the end?

Book details

For kids who love fantasy and dystopian novels

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate