The Giver, Book 1

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Giver, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Riveting, expertly crafted novel shows utopia's flaws.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 132 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 394 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

The cost of utopia can be dystopia. A life without suffering is, by nature, a life without love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jonas risks his life to save a toddler. He realizes that he no longer cares for himself; all that matters is rescuing Gabriel.


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.


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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

As soon as they enter puberty, children begin taking a daily pill to control "Stirrings."

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 N... Continue reading
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... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAnanya Goel February 23, 2017

Can't resist reading!!! An Excellent and exceptional book!

The Giver is an excellent, exceptional, utopian fiction book by Lois Lowry. The book is quite intriguing so the reader can’t stop before completing the book in... 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?

In Lois Lowry's THE GIVER, Jonas is part of a community where there is no pain, no crime, no greed, and no unhappiness. There is also no love, no desire, and no colors or music. At each birthday, every child in the community reaches a new milestone that's commemorated with a special ceremony. Ultimately, at age 12, each child receives a life assignment for which he or she will begin training. When Jonas receives his life assignment to be the Receiver of Memories, his mentor, The Giver, trains Jonas by transferring to him memories of a past 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 were made to create his world, and the terrible secrets behind its perfection. Together, he and The Giver concoct a plan to change their world.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the utopian society depicted in The Giver. What do you like or dislike about this community?

  • The Giver is categorized as a dystopian novel. What are the elements of a dystopian novel? What other dystopian stories have you read? Which are your favorites? 

  • Why do you think The Giver is considered a classic and is often assigned in school? What does it have to teach kids and teens? 

Book details

For kids who love fantasy and dystopian novels

Themes & Topics

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