Houghton Mifflin, 1993. 978-0-395-64566-6
Synopsis: Jonas lives in a perfect world in which everything is enveloped by Sameness. There is no pain, no suffering, no disease, no colors, no weather, and everything about one’s life is decided for them by a community of elders. At the Ceremony of Twelve, where children are given their job assignments and make the transition into adulthood, Jonas is chosen to be the next Receiver of Memory. He is trained by a man known only as the Giver, who exposes Jonas to memories of life outside of Sameness, leading Jonas to question the society in which he lives.
Why I picked it up: I remember reading this in 5th grade and disliking it, but decided to give it a second chance.
Why I finished it: As much as I love science fiction and tween/teen literature, this book does not make me love the combination of the two. The plot and the storyline are very well crafted and bear many of the hallmarks of science fiction literature: people living in a futuristic society in which certain restraints are put upon them and a situation arises which leads them (or a select citizen) to question the practices in place. Jonas is a likable character – though he is part of a cookie-cutter world, he still has his own thoughts, opinions, and abilities which lead the community leaders to choose him to be the Receiver of Memory. As the novel progresses, he is able to slowly move toward the understanding that there is indeed a grey area of the world and becomes understandably emotionally shattered when he realizes that the societal hierarchy exists merely to lie to its citizens. However, I would not call this a children’s book – the themes and much of the content is not generally suited toward an upper elementary audience – and believe it to be better suited for YA, though the protagonist is 11/12. The book is also full of vocabulary terms that younger readers may have a harder time grasping, which is perhaps why it is an ideal choice to be used in a literature unit. Its premise is memorable for a reader, but at the same time has the feeling of being a largely forgettable classic when read in a classroom setting.
Other related materials: Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry; Messenger by Lois Lowry; Gossamer by Lois Lowry; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle; Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak; The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton; Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli; The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins