Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry

An amazing book. I thought I’d read it already in the sixth grade and had hated it, but in fact I’d read The Wish Giver and was too scared to pick this book up because of the frightening old man on the cover. Now I wish I’d had the courage to read it because I wonder what sixth grader me would have thought.

The story is about a young boy named Jonas who lives in a very orderly world filled with numerous rules for living. As you would expect, the book emphasizes the importance of individuality and choice, but even though this was a bit obviously done (the “Giver” explicitly talks about these things), I was surprised to find that I wasn’t annoyed by this all. Actually, Lowry gives her dystopic world some redeeming qualities, which makes you understand why the characters would choose to live in such a way. Of course, the society holds a secret which ends up being pretty horrible, so Jonas can’t be happy, but still.

I also really loved the whole idea of the “Giver” which I feel like I can’t talk about without spoiling the book, but the “giving” becomes a method of showing Jonas the flaws in the world which turn out to be pretty surprising.

My biggest issue with the book was the ending. I’ve read many reviews saying that the end of the book is too quick, and I do agree that there are some pacing issues. But the thing that bothered me more was that I didn’t really understand what happened. Now in some ways, this isn’t a bad thing–you should be left thinking about a book once it’s done–but I kind of wished she had spelled things out just slightly more. (Am I allowed to say that? Or does that make me look dumb?)

Now I’m interested to read Gathering Blue, which, thankfully, does not have a scary old man on the cover. On a side note, Lowry’s other Newbery-award winning book, Number the Stars also has a cover that scared me off. What gives?

Disclaimer: I got this book from the library.

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10 Responses to Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

  1. *spoiler alert*
    Yeah, I wish the ending was more spelled out too. My 6th grade English teach says that it means he died. But it’s not clear.

    • amitha says:

      *spoiler alert*
      Here’s what Lowry says about the ending: (from the Random House website):

      Many kids want a more specific ending to The Giver. Some write, or ask me when they see me, to spell it out exactly. And I don’t do that. And the reason is because The Giver is many things to many different people. People bring to it their own complicated sense of beliefs and hopes and dreams and fears and all of that. So I don’t want to put my own feelings into it, my own beliefs, and ruin that for people who create their own endings in their minds.

      I will say that I find it an optimistic ending. How could it not be an optimistic ending, a happy ending, when that house is there with its lights on and music is playing? So I’m always kind of surprised and disappointed when some people tell me that they think that the boy and the baby just die. I don’t think they die. What form their new life takes is something I like people to figure out for themselves. And each person will give it a different ending.

  2. Tahleen says:

    After you read Gathering Blue, you need to read The Messenger; it will answer any questions you might have left.

  3. amitha says:

    Thanks, Tahleen! I guess I have more books to add to the to-read pile!

  4. It’s a very Hans Christian Andersen “Little Match Girl” ending to me.

    I don’t actually like the book; I found it really heavy handed throughout, and condescending most of the way through. I did enjoy “Number the Stars” though, and it had me tearful in parts. Some of that was possibly because it’s set in Denmark close to the WWII invasion, and some of Joe’s family was loosely involved in the resistance.

    I find some of her cover shots disturbing as well, which is a little odd since she actually does all her own cover photography, so I’d kind of expected something…well, just something else, I suppose.

  5. amitha says:

    I didn’t realize that she did those photos herself. While this is kind of cool, I really was scared off by those covers. I remember thinking that those books looked too sad and scary for me to read.

  6. Pingback: My Favorite New-to-Me Children’s Books for 2010 | Monkey Poop

  7. Don Fingers says:

    Dear Ms Lowry,

    I understand the reason why you will not comment about the ending of
    The Giver, but I was wondering if you would comment on the illustration
    shown on the cover of the book? Is there significance to the tear in the photograph? What exactly is the golden hue among the trees representing?
    I am a middle school Communication Arts teacher and although I do have my own theories about the cover, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on these questions.
    Thank you for taking time in helping me and my students with this inquiry.

    Don Fingers

  8. amitha says:

    Hi Don,
    I’m afraid you have commented on the wrong website. This is not Lois Lowry’s website. Her website (and contact info) can be found at

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