Lowry, Lois. The Giver.
Today I am reviewing one of my favorite books. This is difficult. You might think it is easier to review a book you love. A book you've read probably three or four times over the years. But, no, sadly it isn't. Jonas is our hero. A twelve-year-old guy who is forced to take a world's load of sorrow onto his young shoulders. When our story opens, Jonas is eleven. He's pondering the upcoming December celebrations. No, not Christmas. Every year the whole community gets together, and everyone turns a whole year older. It doesn't matter if you were born in January or November. That first December, you'll turn one along with every other baby born that year. Age only matters to a certain extent. The most important birthday of your life is your twelfth birthday. For it is then, and only then, that the community leaders will decide your fate. They will announce on that day what each child will do for the rest of his/her life. They might become a nurturer, a doctor, a lawyer, or birth mother. There are many jobs. Some have more status and respect than others, but there is no contesting the will of the community leaders. So obviously, Jonas and his friends might spend the weeks leading up to this celebration feeling a little anxious. As the story continues, the reader catches a glimpse of this seemingly perfect society. Everyone is polite. Everyone gets along. There is no violence or hate. No prejudice. Sameness is glorified. There are other oddities mentioned from time to time as well. For example, the act of "releasing" a member of society whether young or old. Jonas and all the children are aware that this happens. But they know nothing of it. Think nothing of it. After all, what does this releasing business have to do with them. They're not feeble babies anymore. They're not criminals. (Three crimes, and you're "released" permanently.) They're not elderly. But through the course of the next year, after Jonas is given his assignment, a few harsh realities become crystal clear to him. Their society is not as perfect as it seems. The adults are not as honest and loving as they seem. (Although the argument is made that they don't really know any better. This is the way it's always been. This is the way they've always been taught.) When Jonas learns that releasing means murder--murder by injection. Then he doesn't know what to think of anything. He sees his father merrily murder a baby less than a day old and think nothing of it. To dispose of him like he's nothing more than a day old newspaper. This terrifies Jonas. But I suppose I am getting ahead of myself. Jonas's new job is a special one. An elite one. He is to be the new Receiver. He will hold all (and I do mean all) the world's memories. He is the only one who will know of war, sickness, pain, sorrow, and hunger but he's also the only one who will know of happiness, joy, families, and holidays. He's the only one who will know of snow, rain, wind, sun. The only one who will know what it feels like to sail in a boat or ride a sled down a hill. He's got the whole world to experience. But no one to share those experiences with. The Giver is an old man. He transmits these memories to Jonas through touch. He communicates and shares the burden one day at a time. With knowledge though comes responsibility. Only The Giver and Receiver know the truth about how far society has gone. How different things used to be. For better or worse. It is deciding how to use that knowledge that will make the whole world of difference to Jonas. Can he continue living in a society once he knows the awful truth about it? Once he knows the dirty little secrets that no one else knows?
I highly recommend this one to any who haven't read it yet.