is an unreadable mess and a complete waste of everyone's time.
1. The Giver
is about a bunch of people who arbitrarily live in a clearly made-up, completely unrealistic hippie commune. Lowry doesn't bother to tell the reader why
this hippie commune exists, how
it came to exist, or why
people are stupid enough to want to live there (or read the book, for that matter).
2. The hippie commune's inhabitants cannot see colour. Lowry apparently doesn't feel the need to explain how humans lost their sense of vision or how this even makes sense. Was it a nuclear holocaust? Overzelous genetic manipulation? Poor writing? We'll never know. (Although if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on poor writing.)
3. They also "discard" babies they don't need. Once again, we'll never know why they do this, or how they decided that casually murdering babies is okay, although Lowry probably did it to cheaply and one-dimensionally portray socialism as "evil". (Lowry's logic: if one person does something bad, his entire viewpoint is evil. One socialist kills a baby. Therefore socialism is evil. I don't think I need to point out the obvious flaws in the argument.) Nothing like making villains utterly evil baby-killers, right? Almost as easy as playing the Nazi card. What's worse, it's not even commentary on the abortion debate because they're disposing of babies after
birth, not before. Ultimately, it's a pointless plot development, an emotionally manipulative cheap shot aimed straight at the heart of undiscerning readers. (And there seem to be many of those; almost everyone I talk to loves The Giver
, a startling and rather worrisome trend.)
4. Jonas has magic powers. No reason is given as to why or how this is even possible. Does The Giver
secretly take place in some fantasy parallel universe with completely different laws of physics? We'll never know, but it seems like the only reasonable case (and that's saying something). One thing's for sure: if Lowry tried to convince us that The Giver
took place on Earth, she did a pretty awful job. Have you ever met someone with magic powers?
5. In the end, Jonas fulfills his stale Messianic role and "dies" in some weird pseudo-spiritual sense. We'll never know why this is important, what he accomplished, or whether anyone even cares. (I sure didn't.)
It's painfully obvious that Lowry doesn't have a clue how to write dystopia. (Well, I think she has trouble writing
, but that's another matter.) Good dystopias allow us to explore hypotheticals — sort of like an Earth-sized what-if test. 1984
warned us about government surveillance. Brave New World
explored the dangers of a pleasure-based society. These stories succeed precisely because of their plausibility: take the Patriot Act and SOPA or our entertainment-based society for example. But while 1984
and Brave New World
have at least some basis in reality, The Giver
has none. The questions I raised above don't have satisfactory answers, so we're left wandering through Lowry's mess of a novel, desperately trying to grab onto something to steady ourselves. Unfortunately, I was sure of only one thing when I finished The Giver
: that Lois Lowry is a hack. And I don't need hokey New Age memory training or cardboard-cutout socialists to help me prove that point.