This is a classic novel first published in 1993 and winner of a Newbery Medal in 1994. It is a dystopian story which at first seems to take place in quite the utopian society. The setting is a population occurring in the future where everyone is designed to be indistinguishable through a concept called “Sameness”. Everything is supposedly equal and there are very strict regulations and consequences which everyone must follow. This is done to ensure everyone’s happiness and to eliminate pain and suffering. Ironically, despite the efforts to remove individuality, a caste system still exists based on performance.
The book follows the story of a young boy named Jonas who is referred to as an “eleven”. He is preparing for the ceremony inducting him into the next age group of “twelves.” He lives with what seems a normal family (mother, father and sister), but upon further explanation, this family is a complete fabrication expertly assembled by a mathematical algorithm of sorts. Once Jonas completes the ceremony, he is given an assignment which will be his lifelong career. The story examines what this assignment means for Jonas, his family and the community as a whole.
The design of this society is so imaginative in regards to how it functions. There are very few details about the landscape which fit well with the overlying theme. Multiple themes explored in this novel include coming of age, societal ideals, and individuality. This novel clearly asserts the importance of independent thought, courage, and creativity. The only character who is really developed, out of the dozen or so others, is Jonas, the protagonist. This is hugely symbolic emphasizing this idea of sameness in that we do not understand much of the other characters’ personalities at all. Some backstory of The Giver, another main character in the novel, is provided, but I would have appreciated understanding much more of this intriguing character’s history.
This book has been noted as assigned reading in middle school english curricula. The 23 chapter book is less than 100 pages, and I think the reading level is appropriate for 6th-8th grade as the transition from childhood to adulthood is one of the major events described. I also note that Jonas was able to articulate independent thought only once he became isolated from his peers. This is significant as peer pressure is a major influence in the emotional development of readers in this age group. Overall, this is a well written book suitable for pre-teen through adult. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and conclude that one could continue to unravel more noteworthy themes upon reflection of the many layers in this story.
Note: I obtained a copy of this book as a library loan. I received no compensation for this review. This is my honest review and all opinions are my own.