Actual rating 4,5/5
After seeing the trailer for the upcoming The Giver movie, my interest was piqued – like a kitten seeing a bird and thinking: that bird shall be mine for supper.
A dystopian setting with a YA protagonist? A cast including actors from True Blood, Dawson’s Creek, Vampire Academy aaaaand Taylor Swift? Yes, I would definitely have to see this movie.
But first, I wanted to read the book. I can’t tell you why, exactly, because the cover is anything but appealing. Maybe just because I’m addicted to book-movie adaptations and because I feel super well-read when I can say “Oh that movie? Yeah, I read the book – IMSOSMARTZ”. But regardless of my motives, I’m pleased I did read it.
The Giver is rightfully considered a true classic in Young Adult literature, written in a time “back and back and back” (actually, 1993 ;)) when the abbreviation ‘YA’ meant nothing to readers or writers yet.
Even though the main character in The Giver is only twelve at the beginning of the novel (in the movie they aged him up to about 16, I think, which is the standard age for YA these days), The Giver definitely ticks the most important box to be considered as Young Adult: letting go of your childhood innocence and learning the importance of freedom of choice, and the consequences of the choices you make.
It ticks all of the dystopian boxes too. By changing everyday words like ‘family’ to ‘family unit’ and ‘bedroom’ to ‘sleeping chambers’ etc, the reader realizes that this world is much the same as ours, but also that something’s slightly off.
Even though what exactly that is, is not by any means unpredictable for your average dystopian reader, it will still give you chills to experience the discovery of what’s beneath the perfect veneer of his life though Jonas’ eyes.
Especially his relationship with his parents becomes truly unnerving towards the end of the book. His relationship with The Giver and Gabriel, on the other side of the spectrum, will warm your heart.
This book is anything but action packed or even all that suspensefully written, yet I felt myself constantly sitting on the proverbial edge of my equally proverbial chair (I much prefer the couch for reading :)) whilst racing through the short chapters of it.
I felt very invested in the characters and their lives from page one. I often lack that connection when a book is written in third person perspective, but I easily overlooked it in The Giver as I climbed into Jonas’ head and world.
The only criticism I can come up with is: why on earth is this book so short? This makes it a speedy (though I wouldn’t say ‘light’) read, sure, but I feel kind of like this was a skeleton draft that still needed to be fleshed out. However, there are still 3 more books in this series, so I’ll reserve my judgement on that topic until I’ve read the entire series.
I’m very curious about the movie (released on 15 Aug). Even though it appears as though they changed a lot – starting with the MC’s age and making the romantic element about 99% more prominent – and a lot of fans were worried about that, I understand the choice to do so and am sure that it will not in any way make the core message in The Giver any less meaningful to the broader public it will soon be able to reach.
PS: I wonder if Beth Revis (Across the Universe) and Ally Condie (Matched) read this book before they started theirs, because I can definitely see what might’ve sparked their stories in The Giver. This is why it’s a good idea to read a classic now and then, instead of only reading the novels that were derived from them. (A piece of advice I could stand to follow myself more often!)