I first read this award winning young adult future-world novel back in 2003, when my high-school aged son suggested it to me. I have read it again for my Third Tuesday Book Club meeting tomorrow night (July 21st, 2015), and I think I enjoyed reading it this time more than last time.
Jonas lives in a Community with perhaps 2,000 or so other people; their world is one of order, with every person knowing his or her place. A maximum of fifty children are born to Birth Mothers in a year; at the Ceremony at the end of December of the year they are born, they are officially named Ones, and given to parents. At the same Ceremony each age group moves up in an age classification, with each group given some sort of indication of increased responsibility (for example, those becoming Nines get bicycles, and begin doing Volunteer Hours in the community). A young adult who is done with schooling can put in a request with the Council of Elders for a spouse, and in due time is given one, chosen with an eye to making the pair a good couple to raise children. Three years after becoming a couple, the pair can put in a request with the Council of Elders for a child (or, if they have one child already, for a child of the opposite sex), and if approved, the pair are given a child (already named) at the Ceremony for Ones. Adults who are not part of a child-raising couple (or who are no longer raising children) live in a dormitory while working at a career, and once retired they move to the House of the Old. Release from the community is granted to the Old upon request, to any citizen of the Community upon request, and is also a punishment for those who have three times willfully violated the Rules of the community; and release can also happen to infants before they are Ones, for various reasons. There is no disease and no dissension; each member of the Community is happy to follow all of the Rules, and so far as each member of the Community (save one) is concerned, the Community has always been, and has always been this way.
Jonas is an Eleven; his sister is a Seven, and they live in a dwelling with Father (who is a Nurturer of the pre-Ones; he recently got permission to bring one newchild home to the dwelling at night, as the child has trouble sleeping) and with Mother (who is an Administrator). The Ceremony coming up for his age cohort is the most important one; based on one’s intelligence and personality, and after being observed by the Elders in their school life, personal life, and volunteer hours, one is told what career one will have within the Community, and undergoes specialized training each afternoon after school. Jonas has a pretty good idea of what his friends will end up doing, but he honestly has no clue, as he has never been strongly drawn to any one role in the community. To his great surprise, he is selected to be the Receiver of Memory, a position that is currently held by an old man; to become the Receiver of Memory, he begins training with the old man, who becomes the Giver of Memory.
This novel won the 1994 Newberry Medal, and is the first book of the Giver Quartet, with the other books being Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004) and Son (2012). I think that we will have a great discussion of this book at my Third Tuesday Book Club meeting, and I look forward to reading the other books in the series.