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Books like The Giver

Instructor: Vivian Davis

Vivian has a PhD in English literature.

'The Giver' presents readers with a chilling dystopian nightmare about the importance of individuality. This lesson provides an overview of books that are similar to Lois Lowry's young-adult novel in terms of plot, tone, and theme.

What Happens in 'The Giver?'

Lois Lowry's young-adult novel The Giver gives us the story of Jonas, a young boy living in a utopian society that, upon closer inspection, turns out to be anything but perfect. The world Jonas lives in is emotionless and cold; individuality has been stamped out by the community's emphasis on conformity and sameness. When Jonas is selected to be the community's Receiver of Memory, however, he is given a window into the past. From 'the Giver,' an older man who formerly held Jonas' position, Jonas receives memories of everything his society currently forbids: passion and pain, pleasure and sorrow. Armed with this new knowledge, Jonas and the Giver hatch a plan to bring the freedom of choice to their society - and themselves.

The Giver has been wildly popular since its release in 1996, and the book is responsible for introducing a whole generation of younger readers to the pleasures of dystopian fiction. Unlike utopian fiction, where authors envision a perfect society, dystopian fiction features societies that are nightmarishly oppressive. In this lesson, we'll discuss books to tackle if you're looking for a book similar to The Giver. The novels listed below compliment The Giver's dystopian plot, its hopeful tone, and its themes of individuality and conformity.

Books that Complement the Plot of 'The Giver'

The plot of The Giver follows the same blueprint used by many dystopian novels: a young character comes face to face with the harsh realities of an oppressive society and must decide whether to rebel against that society or conform to its standards. If you'd like to dip your toe into other novels that follow this trajectory, try starting with classics in the dystopian genre, such as George Orwell's 1984 or Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Orwell wrote 1984 in the aftermath of World War II and in the years leading up to the Cold War. The novel reflects anxieties about propaganda, surveillance, and brainwashing. Its famous everyman protagonist, Winston Smith, struggles against the ever-watchful eye of his society's controlling government, Big Brother. In the end, Winston must either fight Big Brother or embrace him.

On the other hand, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was written later, in 1985, a time when women's rights were being actively debated and discussed. The novel offers a woman's perspective on a society that restricts women's rights and freedoms. The central character, Offred, begins the novel as a slave who has no power over her own body (including her womb), but she soon joins the fight to resist the powers that be.

Looking for dystopian novels written specifically for young adults? Try Suzanne Collins' blockbuster The Hunger Games series (2008-2010) or James Dashner's The Maze Runner series (2009-2011). Both series are action-packed and feature young characters battling restrictive societies. Both have also been made into major motion pictures.

Books that Complement the Tone of 'The Giver'

Despite its dark content, the tone of The Giver is actually pretty optimistic. Rather than resigning themselves to a controlled life devoid of emotion, Jonas and the Giver make the choice to resist the oppressive conformity imposed by their community. Moreover, the ending of the novel in which Jonas escapes his community on a sled, while arguably ambiguous, gives most readers hope for the future of the book's central characters.

There are plenty of books out there worth exploring that, while they may feature dark content, ultimately compliment The Giver's optimism. For example, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird sets a young girl's coming-of-age story against the backdrop of racial prejudice and an unjust legal system. When a young black man is accused of a crime he did not commit, the novel is unflinching in its depiction of the tragic racial injustices the man faces. Nevertheless, the novel ultimately offers hope in the empathy and care practiced by its central characters, namely the famous Atticus Finch, his daughter Scout, and the mysterious Boo Radley.

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