I first read this book in eighth grade, and I recall absolutely adoring it. My favorite part was when we discussed it in class, and there were three different interpretations of the ending! I’m pretty sure this was the first book I’d ever read, or at least the first one I had discussed, where there were so many ways to think about it.
The weird thing about this book, which I have read many times since that first, is that every time I re-read it I like it less as a story, but I love it more as a book and as a commentary on society. I attended a library book club meeting about this book, and for all of those adults that seemed to be the consensus: a very interesting book, but not really well-liked. I think it helps to be 13 when you read it first, because all of the plot devices that become overplayed in another ten years of reading are brand new.
If you haven’t read it (if, say, you were in eighth grade before the mid-90s!), this is a pretty simplistic book about a dystopian future world. In this world, the focus is sameness: all babies born in the same year are considered exactly the same age and each age level wears the same clothing and hair styles and follows the same rules. The exceptions to sameness are in the form of aptitudes and interests, with children performing volunteer work at different jobs and eventually being assigned to a job that seems to fit them, whether that’s Nurturer (taking care of babies), Recreation Director, Laborer, or Birthmother (making babies, but probably not the fun way). However, at this year’s job-assigning ceremony, Jonas gets picked for a job that is very different from those: Receiver of Memories. As we read about Jonas’s job, the delightful, organized world he lives in starts to fall apart, as dystopias are wont to do.
I really like that this story is low-key — there’s a brief period of hurriedness, but the plot generally moves along slowly. It’s much more like The Long Tomorrow than, say, The Hunger Games. Good times.
Rating: 8/10 (inflated for sentimental value, probably)
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