Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Re-reading: The Giver


The Giver was one of those books that was assigned to me in class, but that I really ended up liking. Loving, actually. It was my introduction to dystopia, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I first read this book in eighth grade, and I clearly remember not only having to write a paper on it, but also having to choose from a list of projects that would help us analyze the book. I chose to make a mix tape--on my boom box, natch--and I know for sure that Fiona Apple’s “The Child is Gone” was on there, but I can’t remember what else. (Shout out to Mrs. Van Doren who was doing multi-modal before multi-modal was A Thing!)  Basically this paragraph is just here to show you how cool of a kid I was (Eighth grade? Fiona Apple? Come on.) even though no one in middle school seemed to catch on. I was way ahead of my time.

So now that we’ve established that Eighth Grade Mallory was awesome, let’s talk about how Eighth Grade Mallory had her mind blown. Upon finishing the book, I thought “Oh, what a happy ending. He found a sled. He’s going to Christmas dinner. This is nice.” Then I went to class and the aforementioned Mrs. Van Doren got all critical think-y on us and was like, “Do you really think that he found a sled? Don’t you think that’s just a little too perfect?” And then I realized: Oh God, he died. He died and the baby died and this is not happy this is horrible and I need Fiona Apple now.

So this is what I’ve thought since eighth grade. And when I re-read the book, I thought it again. Yes, the ending is too perfect. There’s no way a sled is just waiting at the top of a hill. Some kid wants to go sledding, brings a sled to the top of a hill and then his mom calls him for dinner and he’s like “Ok, guess I’ll leave the sled here instead of going for one last ride,” and then trudges back down the hill? NOPE.

But then I started doing some research on Amazon, and I found this in the description of the sequel to The Giver: “Under the gentle guidance of Leader, who arrived in Village on a red sled as a young boy and who has the power of Seeing Beyond…” Wait, what? So he did live. And now he’s helping disabled children? I feel like my entire life has been a lie! Well, not really, but I do think this is a good example of when not to do a trilogy, which The Giver eventually turned into.

There were a few other things that surprised me about the book. I hadn’t realized it was so short. I wanted to know more about everything, and I especially wanted the relationship between the Giver and Jonas to be fleshed out a bit more, but with YA books that skew younger--The Giver may even be classified as middle grade now--those are the kinds of things that we, as adults, miss.

I still think it’s a wonderful book, and a great introduction to the genre of dystopian literature, but I also wish that there was no trilogy, because even if the ending was not entirely clear, open-ended is better than cheesy, and an actual sled waiting at the top of an actual mountain to take Jonas and Gabriel to an actual Christmas dinner—well, that’s just a little too easy for me. 

Grade I would have given this book as a kid: Tidal
Re-reading Grade: Extraordinary Machine
Status: Sometimes I choose to ignore things that ruin my perception of art (see: unnecessary sequels and When the Pawn…)


  1. What blew my mind was realizing that they were seeing in black and white. Wouldn't have happened if I'd seen a stupid movie.

    Read books, kids.

    1. Yes! I had even forgotten about that this time around. I kept thinking "I can't remember why the stupid apple is changing!" Man, I wanted to write something about that in my post, too.

      Take notes, kids.

  2. The Giver is one of my all time favorite novels. I remember reading it and starting off thinking "Wow, what a nice place! Everyone has a bike! And a job!" Then slowly realizing that this was a horrific, emotionally dead society changed me as a reader. It was the first time I truly had to think about a book I'd read and loved. And honestly, I still think of it as a stand-alone book.

  3. A teacher friend gave this book to me several years ago as a birthday gift when she found out I had never read it. I read it...and remember NOTHING. Like, I thought it would all come back to me reading your entry. Nope. I guess I will have to reread it? I still have it...Reading fail.