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Parent reviews for The Giver, Book 1

Common Sense says

A riveting utopian novel that's expertly crafted.
Based on our expert review

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 121 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 345 reviews
Adult Written byEmK June 29, 2011

Perfect metaphor

Those that worry about the messages the book is sending and claim it is inappropriate are missing the point. You all are exactly the type of people portrayed in the utopian society of this book. You've just been brainwashed by our own culture, or perhaps your religion, instead, to believe that critical thinking is a bad thing for people. Wake up please. This book should help with that, but apparently you aren't prepared to receive the messages the book is giving to you.

This title contains:

Educational Value
Positive Messages
Parent of a 7 and 10-year-old Written bymostlylost December 4, 2009
My son was assigned this book for his 5th grade reading group, and I had some concerns after reading some reviews on this site. So, I read it myself to see. I thought it was a great book, but I am glad I read it and discussed it with him, because it is certainly thought provoking and sophisticated for his age. My 10 year old was disturbed by the scene near the end of the book, where he discovers that all the "releasing" that has been going on with imperfect citizens and old people is actually killing. This is a perfect opportunity to get your child thinking about the rights of an individual vs. the needs of the community, because these are very real issues that we face today. It also provides lots of opportunity to discuss the idea of individual freedom, and what consequences it has on a society. I liked being able to plant the seeds that will lead to hopefully more sophisticated examination of these ideas in my child as he matures.

As for sexual content, the scenes of children bathing the older folks were not sexual at all. They do coincide with the first stirring of sexual feelings in the boy, but not for the older people. My goodness, people are sensitive about this topic. My son didn't even get that it was a sexual stirring. He thought it was a bad dream, since the adults gave him pills to make it go away.

Overall, I liked the book, and it is iffy for 5th graders. You would certainly want to read it too and discuss it with your child. If you are not comfortable discussing things like death or sex with your child, maybe you should have them skip it. But, on the other hand, maybe it would be good practice for you.
Parent of an infant, 2, and 13-year-old Written bytracideniece January 20, 2009


I have never been so shocked at a children's book. This is not appropriate reading for a child under 15 and it is required in my daughter's 7th grade advanced reading class. After reading some of the reviews here and the young ages of the children exposed to the graphic details in this book, I am appalled. To describe the details of putting a poison filled needle in a newborn's soft spot "because his veins are too teeny-weeny" and then watching it twitch and jerk until it dies is not something to take lightly. Then the baby is wrapped up and put into a garbage chute. Yes kid's think the book is great because it is very shocking and instructors like it because the child will read it...but, PARENTS DO YOU REALLY WANT YOUR CHILDREN TO BE READING THIS???
Adult Written byChristina200 February 16, 2016

One of my favourite YA novels

I personally love this book. I recommend it to any classrooms grade five and up (preferably grade 6). I am completely DISGUSTED at the other reviews. It does NOT encourage the killing of seniors and children. It actually does the opposite. The Giver shows what the world would be like if it did happen. The protagonist, Jonas, slowly finds out the horror of these murders ('release').

This title contains:

Educational Value
Positive Messages
Positive role models
Parent of a 11-year-old Written bymomthatcares January 7, 2011


My 6th grade son is in the process of reading this book. I am so thankful that he feels comfortable enough to come to me with this. I am only up to the 7th chapter and have found it to be sexually inappropriate "BIG TIME". I am not against talking about sex with my children at all. This book portrays the job of childbearing as only for the unintelligent and makes "stirrings" of a pre-teen inappropriate and bad (not natural). To read the reviews and hear that I am going to be reading about a father injecting a baby because it is "unfit" it beyond disgusting to me. I am not a fighting parent but this will definately be an issue on Monday morning. With all the beautiful books a child can read...... To have a young child read this book with no follow up discussion is so irresponsible. The book is just SICK!

This title contains:

Violence & scariness
Sexy stuff
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

This title contains:

Educational Value
Positive Messages
Positive role models
Adult Written bybubbles18 August 16, 2011

Just because an idea is presented, doesn't mean that it is encouraged....

To all those reviews saying that this novel shouldn't be read by children because of the depiction of childbearing, the suppression of sexuality, and the euthanization of the society's citizens: This is a DYSTOPIAN NOVEL. The book gives NEGATIVE overtones to each of these issues, culminating in Jonas rejecting the society by abnegating. Furthermore, Lowry emphasizes the point of using emotions to evaluate the morality of your actions. This is the most important idea presented in the novel, and an idea well worth taking from the novel after you're done reading it.

The one problem I had with the book was the ending; specifically Jonas' departure. Jonas, as the new Receiver, had the power to give emotions and feelings to other people. This, in turn, meant he had the power to change his society by giving them emotions they could use to evaluate their actions. Instead, Jonas rather selfishly leaves society to join a village more suited to his needs. This action doesn't make sense because Jonas was always a character that tried to help other people (soothing Gabe at night, taking bad memories from the Giver, etc.). Having Jonas desert his peers now, when they needed him most, didn't fit his character profile.

All in all though, The Giver was a great dystopian novel, and I highly recommend it.
Parent of a 11-year-old Written bymom45 March 11, 2011

Not appropriate for tweens

Did not like the book at all. My child was asked to read it in 6th grade and she as well as several of her friends found it troubling. The age and maturity of the reader should be considered with this book. Children who are 14 and younger may have difficulty finding a meaningful and accurate interpretation of the material. There are many lessons for children to learn and they should come at the right time. In my opinion the Giver is for High School and older.

This title contains:

Violence & scariness
Sexy stuff
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byauntieriri January 24, 2011

Parents, read the book all the way through before you judge.

My fifth grade teacher read this book to us, and I read it again to myself that same year. I didn't really understand the concept of death well at the time, and I don't think my classmates did either, because none of us cried or got too distraught over the father killing the smaller twin.
(I am a twin, so I'm wondering why that didn't bother me!)
But other than that, I don't feel the book was a "Bad Book" to read to that age group, though the concepts were a bit beyond us.

I'm a bit appalled at the mother who decided to review the book after only reading up to chapter seven. Is setting a bad example for her children. Honestly, the book doesn't promote abortions or tries to spread the idea of suppressing sexual urges, or the idea that giving birth is for barbarians or whatever. It's the opposite. The whole point of that book is the boy's want of the "real" existence and freedom, and his selflessness in the form of wanting to save that infant.

The message I pulled out of that book at 11 years old wasn't much other than gaining an appreciation for not being colorblind. But it did start a great debate on perception, of being "on the outside looking in" and the big debate of whether the boy dies at the end due to hypothermia or if he did find the colorful place to live.

This title contains:

Violence & scariness
Parent of a 5-year-old Written bymdjohnson June 11, 2010

Fabulous book!

Absolutely loved this book. Promotes thinking about issues of free will and choice. Helps kids understand the benefits of our society as they compare/contrast the society in the book. Excellent for conversations about responsibility and individuality. Certainly doesn't promote ideals from the society, as others suggested. Rather, the exploration of the society helps students appreciate their own society and the importance of their beliefs.

This title contains:

Sexy stuff
Positive Messages
Positive role models
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: This is not appropriate imagery for 11 year olds to read: “”I wanted her to take off her clothes and get into the tub. I wanted to bathe her… The wanting. I knew that she wouldn’t. and I think I knew that she shouldn’t. But I wanted it so terribly. I could feel the wanting all through me.” The dream had felt pleasurable. Though the feelings were confused, he thought that he has liked the feelings his mother had called Stirrings. He remembered that upon waking, he had wanted to feel the Stirrings again.”

Infanticide: One passage describes infanticide performed on a "less than adequate" baby: "He pushed the plunger very slowly, injecting the liquid into the scalp vein until the syringe was empty. . . . As he continued to watch, the newchild [sic], no longer crying, moved his arms and legs in a jerking motion. Then he went limp. He [sic] head fell to the side, his eyes half open. Then he was still."

Disturbing for me as a parent and not appropriate for 5th graders.
Adult Written byloverbeans March 23, 2009

People misunderstand this Book

I was appalled by a couple reviews on The Giver. People write reviews stating that this book encourages murder and glorifies the death of babies! It does quite the opposite. Yes, the book is very descriptive when it describes the death of a certain child. This description is not meant to glorify death, but rather evoke an emotional response AGAINST this treatment of babies who are flawed. The entire scene was created in order to show the absurdity of it all. This book is not about making kids EXCITED about the death scene. People who write that this novel teaches children that killing flawed people is acceptable are ridiculously mistaken and probably haven't read the entire book. I imagine they most likely skimmed two or three pages and decided what the book was about without any consideration of the actual content.

This book teaches children the importance of every individual's life, no matter the flaws. It shows kids that getting rid of differences for the sake of a more peaceful community is not worth it. It teaches us all of the real problem...the inability of society to accept differences. The prescence of differences would not be a problem if everyone could accept them, and we cannot live a whole existence supressing our humanity, as this book brilliantly suggests.
Parent of a 12-year-old Written byTsion April 9, 2008

Thought-Provoking Novel is Timeless!

The Giver takes place in a society where 'sameness' rules. There's no color, no races, no religion or ethnic groups. Everyone lives in a family unit, where parents are selected to take care of children. Everyone is assigned a job. No questions.
A teen, Jonas, learns much from The Giver and tries to break free from these bonds.
There is little questionable content in this. There is a disturbing scene where Jonas's 'father' executes a young baby by injecting a needle in it (he doesn't know any better). Jonas also starts having 'stirrings' or sexual dreams. Sex isn't permitted, so Jonas must take pills to delete these dreams.
The dream gets no more graphic than Jonas expressing a desire to bathe a female friend.
This novel is thought-provoking and is a must-read for everyone at some time. It, rightly, won the Newberry Medal.
You must read it!
Adult Written byBookDot April 22, 2019


There is a passage where Jonas has a dream and he talks about how he dreamed of a girl being naked in a tub even if he knew it was wrong and against the rules and how she may not have wanted to. He described a sexual desire as a wanting. Giving anyone your age a bath who is not related to you is extremely wrong and sexual.

This title contains:

Sexy stuff
Adult Written bySharron04 November 29, 2018


My 12 year old granddaughter was assigned this book. I read it and was appalled. After she read it, with parental supervision, she dreamt she killed me because I am old and, according to this book, bereft of value. Her classmates, using FaceTime, discussed what a horrible book they thought it was. We are pushing our children to grow up too fast! High school is early enough for this book.

This title contains:

Violence & scariness
Adult Written byEric S. November 13, 2018

This content isn't for middle school

I'm an adult and this book made me sick to my stomach with the description of the main character's father killing a baby because it was basically deemed unworthy. As an adult I stopped reading and choose not to continue. Making this a required read in middle school is way to heavy for some kids. It is too bad, because the book has a lot of merit in other areas. The "stirrings" are pretty age appropriate, basically your body is about to start getting some weird feelings, but it's normal. In the society of the book kids are medicated to avoid it. This is a reality of life and I think some parents are over reacting about that part. Your kids should know what's coming with their changing body. I do have an issue with this content being taught in school. If my child choose this book as a free read I would probably tell them ahead of time what a few of the disturbing parts were and ask them if they were sure they wanted to read it. If they choose to read it I would read it with them. I don't care for the school requiring such a disturbing book. My son stopped reading Harry Potter when people started dying. He's sensitive and this book would have been a problem for him. I would NOT force this book on a child as required reading, it's too dark and heavy for a 11 or 12 year old who didn't choose it. Additionally, it deals with some very heavy topics and if you don't totally trust the teacher it is a book that leaves a lot of room for the teacher to infuse their own opinions on topics such as euthanasia that may not reflect your family's values. Bottom line: I would let my child read it in middle school if they chose it, but I would read it with them and talk about it. This had been part of my son's schools 5th grade curriculum and I went to the principle before the year began and had a strong conversation about my concerns and told them I would not force my child to read this book. In the end they read Esparanze Rising instead and kept that book in the curriculum (way better and more age appropriate). Know your kid and read it yourself if they want to read it. If your kid is sensitive this is probably not a book for them.
Adult Written bysitodocambia April 22, 2012


I felt I should comment because it seems like some people are misunderstanding the book's message. A lot of times, works of literature, especially Science Fiction (like this book) will show us a future society with a lot of problems. They will show us terrible things, like babies being killed to illustrate a point.....we do NOT want to our society to end up this way. Science fiction writers try to show us some of the problems or negative trends in our society by showing us a future society that has a worse version of our society. The Giver shows us what life would be like in a society with no choices and no freedom, where people do not understand the value of life and human emotions because they have forgotten. The negative things that happen in the Giver are the author's attempt to show us what life would be like in such a society so that we never let ourselves get to that point. Therefore, I think the book provides us with some valueable lessons that are important at any age. So, I'd recommend this book in a heartbeat to anyone of any age over 11. It certainly made a positive impression on me and I'm sure it will make one on all of you as well if you let it!

This title contains:

Educational Value
Adult Written bybgambi2 June 18, 2011

Perfect Book for Kids Discovering Themselves

I do not have children, however I am a nanny to 3. The oldest is starting 5th grade and will read the book, among others, for me this summer.

This book has violence. It has sexual content. It is about a supposed utopian community that has some of the most horrible values that it makes you want to rip it apart in anger. That is exactly why we should let these kids read it.

So there's violence. What 5th grader hasn't seen harry potter, transformers, iron man, or any other movie? Kids these days love action movies and shows where the good guy conquers over evil and does a little butt kicking while he's at it. But 5th graders also need to figure out things on their own, for example: what is good? what is evil? how can something that was supposed to be good turn out to be evil? The Giver helps them discover for themselves what they believe is right as they discover more about how the book's society works.

As far as the sexual content, its a boy going through puberty. Kids know what that's like. They know the confusion and the uncertainty that comes along with it. Parents say this book steers kids away from talking about puberty, but if parents are open and available yet not pushy then their kids shouldn't have a problem just because of this book. I didn't think twice about how it affected my life when i read it...i only ever thought about how strange the parents in the book were to close puberty discussions.

And those horrible opinions i mentioned before? Killing unneeded babies, treating birth mothers as lazy, killing the old when they are no longer of use. These are all ideas similar to our own world: abortion, euthanasia, the modern working woman v.s. june cleaver. kids discover these all on their own soon enough, with the world telling them what to think on this subject and that. but with The Giver, as i said before, they are able to make their own decisions and feel their own feelings.

This title contains:

Educational Value
Positive Messages
Adult Written bybobby120 June 21, 2019

The mind is like a parachute...

This book is an excellent read aloud. Of course it should be accompanied by much discussion.

This title contains:

Educational Value
Adult Written byInformedAdult June 2, 2019

This Book Is Misunderstood And If You Haven't Read It, You Should!

To anybody thinking of reading this book, read it. It is a great book and it truly allows anybody who reads it to be more critical of the world they live in and that is much required in the world that we live in where people accept bogus facts to be true (e.g. flat earth) while conveniently ignoring those that affect our lives and the lives of those to come (e.g. climate change). To those who think that this book encourages the expulsion/death of unacceptable individuals, it doesn't and the scene is meant to be a turning point for the protagonist as he sees what's wrong with his society. Also, to those that think that it is inappropriate for younger audiences, like children, simply because it includes a scene where the protagonist displays his desire to be with a female friend of his, be realistic. This book is probably not the first introduction to sex and sexual desires for children of 11 years of age or older. Approximately 93 percent of parents support the teaching of sex and subjects related to it in middle school in the United States Of America and most children learn about the subject through other unconventional methods (like through other children at school).

This title contains:

Educational Value
Positive Messages