A Chilling Children’s Classic—Lois Lowry’s The Giver

The Giver is a classic children’s novel, winner of the Newberry Medal and Maine Student Book Award.  It is also on many banned-book lists because it prompts readers—of whatever age—to re-examine what they value.  Although classified as science fiction, it has no whiz-bang technology to distract from the story, and it escrews the kind of violent dystopian vision central to such books as The Hunger Games.  But I find the world created by Lowry in The Giver more chilling than those of The Hunger Games or even such adult genre classics as 1984.

The world in which The Giver’s hero, Jonas, lives is peaceful, highly organized, family- and community-centered.  But as Jonas peels away the superficial layers of this world, he comes to understand the horror that undergirds the peace.  What I found most frightening about this book is that, as I shared Jonas’s dawning awareness of the nature of his culture, I also recognized how easily ordinary people could surrender to the world Lowry has created.

—Diane

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