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The Giver, Book 1

A riveting utopian novel that's expertly crafted.
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What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

Positive role models

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.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Lois Lowry
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Publication date:January 1, 1993
Number of pages:180
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 14
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

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Teen, 13 years old Written byConsiderItRead October 26, 2011

Unbelivably Enlightning.

I can't belive how shallow the parents on this website are being. I am a 13 year old in my 8th grade year, and I appear to be more understanding than these adults are about this book. The Stirrings are NOT sexually inappropriate-remember that this book is for teens, who are going through puberty. My amazing 8th grade teacher explained the reason why the releasing of unfit children is understandable. "I worked in a Special Ed. class for about 3 years, and throughout that time, I met a child. He was disfigured and nobody liked to be around him. Everyday, he would ask me 'Why? Why would they let me live?' and I realized that he was in intense pain. It would be better to have killed the child, rather than selfishly having him live through life, unable to reproduce, unable to make real friends or live a normal life and constantly in pain." Although I don't agree with killing children, I can understand certain circumstances. Another point she brought up was: "If you saw an animal on the side of the street, it's legs squished to the ground because of being ran over by a car and its stomach bleeding, which of these would you do: Try to save the dog, or put it out of it's misery?" After discussion, our class ended our discussion, most of us deciding to save the dog. She wisely told us, "I would kill the dog. You know why? Because that animal is in PAIN. Even after surgury or whatever, it would still live with that constant pain, for the rest of its life until it died a painful death." This all applies to The Giver. This book is not 'Sick' or 'Inappropriate', its REAL. This book shows us dehumanization-when killing babies is a matter that is disreguarded as important and just a lifestyle. Birthmothers not given any glory is also understandable. In this 'perfect' society, they are taught about things at a young age and they believe it. Lois Lowry is not implying that giving birth is a job meant for the unintelligent, she's just saying that in this 'perfect' society, that is just how people think about it because of false facts. For the parents out there that believe that this book is teaching us children that it is ok to stick a needle in children who are unfit for society, THIS IS NOT THE CASE. Do you parents honestly think that after reading about releasing, we went to our next periods saying that all of the Special Ed. kids should just go die? Of course not. Please open your eyes and give this book the chance that it deserves. Don't be so foolish as to let your children miss out on this literary treasure. This novel is truely my favorite, and I'm sure that many more will come to love it. Keep on writing, Lois Lowry. <3
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
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 to make bad choices that have caused pain and suffering. Yes, through our freedom we have slowly destroyed the incredible world the Lord has created for us. But the alternative which is skillfully portrayed in The Giver, is terrifying. This is a book that every christian child 10+ should read and discuss with their parents. It is a very thought provoking book and a lot can be gleaned from it. There are some disturbing scenes, but isn't life a little disturbing at times? I would recommend that this book be saved till your child can fully understand it and will be able to handle some of the disturbing scenes
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
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 may ask? Well, this book has been made for kids going through puberty. Don't you understand, sexual thoughts, fitting into your community those ideas are put in the book so tweens can feel empathy towards the main character Jonas. As a becoming teen I can understand in some ways how the main character feels. One most see that this story lets you know its okay for those feelings, one as a human must cope with them. The realsing of people is horrible and many things the community were Jonas lives are but they show the world isn't heaven and as a parent you can't hide a child from it. The longer you try to keep them in a bubble it will be more shocking to them to meet the REAL world. I personally do not understand the mother how disliked the book so much but I feel that she did have her reasons, though they seem quit meaningless to me. You need to decided if the book is right for you're living style. But I'll let you know if it is there is one thing that it will teach you and leave in printed in your skin. Don't be Afraid to feel. To wonder? To challenge the world. For all those great characters such as Gandhi or Martin Luther King, that is what they did.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models