This one was fairly difficult to rate, as when it comes to fantasy, dystopia, or any fictional world for that matter, I am hypocritical and demand that the world-building makes logical sense within itself. Pretty standard when you think about it, really.
About halfway through The Giver, you start to realise that not all your questions will be answered, not all the plotholes you’ve spotted will be filled. Some will, and quite well in fact, but as they get resolved, new ones arise. It’s quite an inarguable fact that Lois Lowry’s universe is missing some plausibility. A fair bit of plausibility, actually. And that sucks balls.
Though I have rage-reviewed books that have committed lesser crimes than this (Divergent, anyone?), I have to say that The Giver appears to be an exception to the rule. I’m not intentionally playing favourites, I swear.
In a world many have described as “1984 for a younger audience”, 12-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly utopian society, carefully constructed so residents would never experience unkindness, discrimination or, most importantly, pain. The world-building here was absolutely fantastic, especially given the length of the book. In the first few chapters of a 179 page book, Lois Lowry really captured the feeling or totalitarianism and portrayed it to the reader so simply, effortlessly, without that irritating info-dumping that happens so often in YA.
Unfortunately as the story went on, I did start to notice plot holes. Some were relatively small and could be looked over; Jonas gets reprimanded for using the word “starving” out of context, but in a world where no one knows the meaning of pain and has no access to books or outside information, how did Jonas know that word in the first place?
Some plot holes were slightly less forgivable. Like the sudden, unexplained presence of goddamn magic in this sci-fi adventure.
As I said before, I am usually incredibly unforgiving when it comes to fictional worlds that don’t make sense within themselves, especially when the author doesn’t even offer up a half-hearted explanation attempt. So why, you may be asking, am I not rage-reviewing the shit out of this?
It really comes down to the fact that I knew what I was getting myself in for when I started this book. I knew that it wasn’t just a sci-fi dystopia, more of a beginner’s guide to critical thinking with a crisp, sugar-coating of fiction to make it nice and sweet, much like Sophie’s World is a teenager’s Philosophy crash course with a hint of fiction thrown in to make it more palatable.
Does this forgive the plotholes? Well, no. Does this mean I believe in dumbing things down for kids. No! It just means my expectations were set when I started the book and met by the time I had finished. I could enjoy the book for what it was without feeling incredibly disappointed and resorting to rage-reviewing.
I do think that if I had read this book when I was younger, before I had truly grasped the concept of critical thinking, it would have been one of those books that changed my life. But as it happens, the issues in the book were old news to me, the twists and turns were consequentially predictable, and the only thing I could do was concentrate more on plotting and characters which weren’t up to standard for the reasons I mentioned in the previous paragraph. And I didn’t want to be focusing on plotting and characters, for the reasons I mentioned in the previous paragraph.
It was still good though. I still enjoyed it enough to give it four stars. But despite my slightly lowered expectations, I was hoping it would go somewhere more exciting, I was hoping it would blow my mind and fill all those plotholes, I was hoping to be able to rate it as a work of literature as well as a lesson on critical thinking.
I don’t think it measures up as a good work of literature, but it is a fantastic book to give to new teenagers. It is a great book to introduce young people to some very important concepts, and even to give to some adults to remind them of the same important concepts.
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