Originally I had read about how someone went on a diatribe about half the length of this book regarding how the book was garbage and pushing an agenda. I had to read this book about 15 years ago for school and today I cannot remember what it was about. Whatever. I'll offer my plain jane simple view of the matter. The author wrote the book well- but the storytelling is shallow and non-conclusive. What I mean by that is that the book cannot wrap itself up but must 'hyphenate' over to the next in the series. Had this been stand-a-lone I would have been much harsher on it.
A book for middle schoolers?
I don't know if a middle schooler can extrapolate any meaning from this book- but I am sure a conclusion can be reached through discussion. This is why the book was commonly used in school curriculums. As an educated adult I had no problem extracting some meaning. I got the jist of the message and it's important. I now allude to an earlier snippet where I discussed the meaning I found.
"The book's meaning begins to sink in at about page 159. Without pain in life people will never learn and never experience what life 'is'. Pleasure and pain are two sides of the same coin. Without memories of the past- no matter if horrible or wonderful- people will never learn the wisdom to make future decisions. That is the bare knuckle, down to the bone message I get from the book. Is it fun to read? not really."
Reasons for disliking the book
It wasn't fun to read because the story didn't grab or entertain me. Obviously one can read about 'the community' and either be indifferent about it or oppose that way of living (as I do), but I feel there was a better way to go about delivering the message. So Jonas discovers things. big deal. So he learns about 'release'- big deal. There needed to be more to the story than just his reactions. Most people who still have a shred of empathy will agree on the assumption the 'release' in the book is bad- but the author did not explore any further on those feelings or on the subject of 'release'.
But what about...
Then I can hear the 'but I want my readers to think about it on their own and come to their own conclusions'. I feel that the book should have given more information to spur critical thinking. You drop an idea, talk about how one character reacts to that idea, show his position on it- then what he is going to do about it. OK- but if you want to spread further meaning through your work- you need to explore the philosophical aspects. Perhaps that is too much for a 'children's book'.
Some books are read for entertainment. Others to gain information and yet others to deliver a meaning or message. I felt that 'The Giver' could have done better and could have wrapped up the story better in its first of four books. I didn't necessarily hate this book- I was just not captivated by the story and I did not enjoy it. Your mileage may vary. If the author did not seriously attempt to write the book with meaning then I would have given it one star. It's not a BAD book per se- it is just one that wasn't for me.