The Giver  - Lois Lowry “It's the choosing that's important, isn't it?”

Jonas lives in a world of "Sameness" with his Mother, his Father, and his younger sister, Lily. It's a world governed by rules, by rigid structure, by conformity. Jonas enjoys his life--until he is selected to be The Receiver. His job? To receive the memories from The Giver of the past. And what the past unveils shows a drastically different world than Jonas lives in.

This week is Banned Books Week, and in honor, I selected this from the ALA Banned Book List. Some of the reasons included euthanasia, sexual awakening, and infantcide.

Another reason I chose this book is I love dystopias, and with the modern crop of hideously bad insanely stupid sloppily constructed dystopias for Young Adults, I thought I would return to the roots, to see one of the first (if not the first) Young Adult Dystopia novels.

In short, this book is brilliant. The dystopia works, the characters are great, the writing is excellent, and I was genuinely moved.

A lot of recent dystopias seem to have their world-building constructed like a house of cards: one little sneeze, and the entire thing falls in your lap. With the exception of the giving and receiving of memories (Is Jonas genetically modified to be able to give and receive? Is this science? Magic? How does this happen?), the world building is consistent, realistic, and understandable. People have been stripped of choices; they live in a sanitized "safe" world where no conflict exists. Families are created based on strict algorithms; people are assigned their jobs, their spouses, their children. The only books are those based on the rules of the society. People must be precise in their language; you don't just toss around the word "love" anymore.

What I thought was most amazing was how polite everyone was. To eradicate conflict, everyone was trained to immediately apologize for sins and to accept apologies. Debate, discord, arguments--all of these never occurred because there was no outlet. I felt sad about this, particularly because my hobby is reviewing, and if there is one thing I've learned while reviewing, it's that everyone has a different opinion about everything. But in this society, such things as a difference of opinion would never have been cultivated or encouraged; we would never have debate; we would never argue and learn to be social. Instead, we would be silenced.

The characters were great. I really got close to Jonas, and there were at least two times when I was nearly moved to tears after something happened to him. I was astonished at how quickly and easily I great attached to him; it's truly a gifted author who can write her protagonist so well that the reader is so close to him after so short a time. Other characters, such as The Giver, Mother, Father, Lily, Asher, Fiona, may not have been the highlight, but they were well-established. Asher's clumsiness with words, Lily's impetuousness, Father's nurturing (very interesting, as it is so often the woman is pigeon-holed into this role!), Mother's rationality--they hint at each being an individual, straining to be free in a Same society.

The writing is obviously for a younger reader, probably about middle grade. While I don't typically read middle grade books, I felt I was still able to enjoy it, that it wasn't too "dumbed down".

As for why it is banned....poppycock! I think this is a perfect book for a middle-schooler/early high school student. While I might agree that a parent should be on standby for some scenes (just in case questions or discussion topics arise), I think this book is a great gateway into a better understanding of our world and the things we hold important. What better way to show a burgeoning young man or woman how valuable choice and love and the beauty of nature around us than to show a world that doesn't have any of that. What a better way to show kids to be engaged in everything around us, that life is precious, that emotions, good and bad, are important and healthy.

"The Giver" may not be the first dystopian novel nor the last, but it's still an important work that can teach everyone something new. If things like loving your family, the horrors of killing someone because they aren't "useful", and the gift of choice and the beauty of nature are things we don't want in our society, then sure, this book should remain banned. Personally, I WANT to love, I WANT choice, I WANT to see beauty, I WANT to feel and think and be and have different opinions than everyone else. I think the banning of this book is the highest form of irony; I know if I ever have kids, that I won't be banning it from them.