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Anyone who regularly follows my blog knows I have been on a quest to seek out and read all the Newbery medal winners. This is no easy task, considering the award has been given out annually since 1922. Since May 2013, I've plowed through about 20 of them. Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton Mifflin, 1993) is my favorite so far.
Lowry creates a supposed Utopia in which the threat of individuality has been stripped from society in favor of "Sameness" (think George Orwell's 1984). The story centers on Jonas and the coming-of-age ceremony which happens when kids turn 12 and are given their "assignments;" that is, the jobs that have been selected for them.
Jonas is tasked with becoming the society's new Receiver, which means the Giver will transfer his memories - both the good and bad - which are being shielded away from the general public.
Clearly the thought-provoking nature of the subject matter makes for rich territory. It also has generated a certain amount of controversy, although as Lowry herself says, she isn't sure why. She considers the book to be highly moralistic and notes that when the book has been challenged, it is in a vague way.
Of course, this is also why it has been my favorite of the Newbery books I've read so far. The book makes the reader (no matter what age) think. In my own writing, it challenges me to remember that the ultimate goal in writing is to give the reader something - maybe it is just entertainment, maybe information, maybe inspiration. In the best of worlds, a book accomplishes all three. The Giver is such a book.