Lois Lowry (Young Adult Science Fiction)
It is against the rules to brag. It is against the rules to keep your feelings hidden. It is against the rules to point out someone’s differences. There are a lot of rules in the community—rules that are very hard to change, but keep the community orderly, predictable, pleasant, and safe. Rules are good and will be followed or offenders will face the terrible punishment of release. Jonas has nothing to worry about because he follows the rules. What he is worried about is the Ceremony of Twelve where he, along with the community’s other twelve-year-olds, will be separated into an Assignment Group and receive training for adult life. Jonas isn’t sure what he is suited for: nurturer, doctor, speaker, engineer, laborer. When the big day finally arrives, Jonas isn’t assigned like the others. Instead, he is selected and for the first time in his life, he’ll know what’s it like to feel alone and apart.
Lois Lowry’s The Giver was published in 1993 and since that time, it has graced a spot on the American Library Association’s list of banned books. Life really does seem to imitate art since members in Lowry’s fictional community are themselves banned from reading all books except the dictionary and The Book of Rules. Lowry addressed this very issue in the F.A.Q. section of her website (www.loislowry.com) by saying, “I think banning books is a very, very dangerous thing. It takes away an important freedom. The world portrayed in The Giver is a world where choice has been taken away. It is a frightening world. Let’s work hard to keep it from truly happening.” Much of the resistance to The Giver stems from its targeted age group (grades 5-8) with the ALA considering the book “unsuited to age group”. I would tend to agree that the subjects discussed in this book are weighty and extremely complex (population control, free will, memory suppression, psychological manipulation). Interestingly, while some schools are banning this book, others are embracing it and actually making it required reading. With such sensitive topics as infanticide and geriatricide, The Giver is a book that clearly benefits from teacher-led group discussions. Talking about individual choice, the challenges of change, and the benefits and drawbacks of constancy can be debated and explored in a thoughtful and engaging environment.
One of the things that Jonas learns from the Giver is that the community was built to protect people from their own wrong choices. Almost like the ALA and their list of books. As Lowry said on her site, “Any time there is an attempt to ban a book, you should fight it as hard as you can. It’s okay for a parent to say, ‘I don’t want my child to read this book.’ But it is not okay for anyone to try to make that decision for other people.” We’re fighting, Ms. Lowry, as hard as we can.
Reviewer’s Note: The Giver is the first in a series of four books. All take place in the same futuristic time era but have different protagonists.
* Book cover image attributed to www.barnesandnoble.com