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The Giver (Graphic Novel) (Giver Quartet)

Review

The Giver (Graphic Novel) (Giver Quartet)

written by Lois Lowry with illustrations by P. Craig Russell

- Click here to read Anushka Giri's review.

Review #1 by Ansley K., Teen Board Member

This stunning graphic novel is the adaptation of Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER, originally published in 1993, which received critical acclaim and won the Newberry Medal. Lois Lowry is the author of many novels, and THE GIVER is part of The Giver Quartet. THE GIVER is an interesting and frightening story of a seemingly utopic society and the importance of remembering what makes us human.

"A beautiful graphic novel that remains extremely faithful to the original story....The illustrations are wonderfully detailed and convey so much emotion and meaning that makes sure none of the power that the original publication is lost."

THE GIVER is about 12-year boy named Jonas who lives in a community built on strict rules and the idea of “sameness” to create a society free from imperfection; no one questions the way the community has been set up. Jonas’s family, like all others, consists of a mother and father assigned to be spouses, a son and a daughter. His parents were assigned their careers during their Ceremony of 12, just like every other adult. Jonas himself is apprehensive for his upcoming ceremony where he will finally discover what he has been assigned to do. However, during Jonas’s ceremony, something is different; Jonas is chosen to become the Receiver of Memory; to train to become the new Giver. He soon learns the great responsibility that this job entails, but it also exposes him to the complicated history of mankind and the range of human emotion which he has never felt before. As the Receiver, Jonas learns the unsettling truth of the community and all that has been hidden from its members, and he must make the decision regarding how and to whom this knowledge should be shared.

THE GIVER: The Graphic Novel Adaptation is a beautiful graphic novel that remains extremely faithful to the original story. This was actually my first graphic novel and it introduced me to the genre in a spectacular way. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed and convey so much emotion and meaning that makes sure none of the power that the original publication is lost. I read THE GIVER for the first time about eight years ago and as I read this adaptation, I got just as much out of it this time. The story of THE GIVER itself is so interesting and unique; it also reveals so much about why it is important to remember our history and learn from both our mistakes and successes. THE GIVER teaches the reader that any attempt to create a perfect society is inherently flawed, because the imperfections of humanity are necessary to understand, even if they are upsetting. The graphic novel does an excellent job showing Jonas’s inner monologue and crafting emotion through the use of lightness and darkness, colorful scenes and monochromatic ones. Of course, some of the storyline is simplified in order to adapt it to this format and there is a heavier focus on Jonas alone than there is in the original novel. The pace of the novel is also a bit faster. Overall, it is a powerful story combined with touching and gorgeous illustrations that is certainly a novel worth reading.

THE GIVER: The Graphic Novel Adaptation will be loved by both graphic novel and non-graphic novel readers alike. It is an interesting and fast-paced story that keeps the reader engaged and definitely would appeal to readers of many genres.


Review #2 by Anushka Giri

Imagine a life in which you never have to worry about anything. Your job is carefully selected for you based on your personality and strengths, your partner is painstakingly picked to perfectly suit your temperament, intelligence and interests, and you are guaranteed to raise two wonderful children --- one girl and one boy, of course --- to be hard-working, honest citizens. In a way, this sounds quite ideal, right? You have been set up for success and happiness! There is no paralyzing anxiety, no fear of the future or failure. This is the perfect life.

It is also the only life that THE GIVER’s 12-year-old Jonas has ever known, a way of existence adopted by his community countless generations ago in an effort to eradicate pain and suffering. Jonas is due to find out his “assignment,” or future occupation, during his and his yearmates’ Ceremony of Twelve. To his immense shock, however, he is given a designation he does not immediately recognize --- that of Receiver of Memory. The old Receiver has now become the Giver of Memory, and Jonas must take from him all the recollections of the past, of things that no longer exist, ranging from the obviously desirable such as famine and war, to the less obvious, such as sunshine and Christmas. Jonas soon learns that with the annihilation of anger, hatred and sorrow comes the loss of joy and love; after all, the good cannot exist without the bad. Jonas must now choose between allowing things to remain the way they are, or trying to change his community with the help of the Giver --- for better or for worse.

"Russell takes on a difficult task and performs it admirably....[His] stylistic choices result in a piece that is neat, uncluttered and which never feels bound by its constraints of panels and text blurbs."

I imagine very few people, if at all, have never heard of Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER, which has been featured on innumerable middle school reading lists and has stirred up endless controversy since 1993, alongside famous dystopian classics such as Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD, and Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451. What has consistently set THE GIVER aside from its peers, however, is its accessibility to a younger audience and the way in which it encourages introspection while still maintaining depth of emotion and inspiring hope.

Unlike most, I read THE GIVER at the ripe old age of 18, an adult in many respects. Despite being outside the intended age bracket, I cried numerous times as Jonas discovered new experiences and feelings, and for days after that, I could not stop looking at the world and marveling at the variety of colors and textures --- in plants, in landscapes, in people’s skin and hair and eyes. It’s hard to translate the swell of emotions you get from this timeless novel to other mediums. Many have tried, some have partially succeeded, and others have failed. (Let’s not talk about the 2014 film adaptation, which I’m sure a lot of you have seen. Not even Meryl Streep could make that work.)

I’m happy to say that Russell’s graphic novel adaptation surprisingly mostly succeeds. I hesitantly inserted the “mostly” there, because I cannot help asking myself if I would be quite as engaged with Russell’s somewhat retro-feeling art style and the fact that of the 176 pages, roughly only 25 were in color, if I were not already dedicated to this reading due to the source material being a beloved book, and if I did not already understand that the black and white nature of the artwork was necessary in order to mirror the colorlessness of Jonas’s world. That being said, Russell takes on a difficult task and performs it admirably. I particularly commend his decision to avoid the harshness of overly stark lines, and to shun heavy-handed shading in favor of gentle washes of gray. Backgrounds are occasionally simply white space, further emphasizing the plainness and monotony of the world that Jonas inhabits; however, touches of blue here and there to denote Jonas’s eyes, bodies of water and the sky stave off boredom on the reader’s part. Together, these stylistic choices result in a piece that is neat, uncluttered and which never feels bound by its constraints of panels and text blurbs.

This is a quick read, so I would recommend it even to those who are (like myself) suspicious of adaptations. It’s a wonderful pick for young folk who are still not too keen on reading things comprised only of words, and it’s a great way for those who have already read the novel to revisit this particular dystopia. Thankfully, Russell stays close to Lowry’s original, flawless work, which served two purposes: First, it prevented me from finding too much to gripe about, as I was thoroughly worried that the ambiguity of the novel’s ending would be lent a “helpful” nudge. Secondly, it offered me the opportunity to relax and take a stroll down an all-too-familiar path but to see it, for once, through someone else’s eyes. In a way, it oddly felt almost like…receiving someone else’s memories, I think you could say.

Reviewed by Ansley K., Teen Board Member and Anushka Giri on February 13, 2019

The Giver (Graphic Novel) (Giver Quartet)
written by Lois Lowry with illustrations by P. Craig Russell