This book was one of my favorites as a kid, & I'm not even ashamed to admit that it's still a favorite to this day, & that I'll break it out & read it about once a year or so.
It really makes me think about society today, & the arguments surrounding anti-depressants--is it worth not feeling pleasure, & love, just to avoid the pain in life?
This book isn't anything that should be kept away from a child; instead it should be used to foster a heartfelt discussion with him or her.
In the "ideal" world into which Jonas was born, everybody has sensibly agreed that well-matched married couples will raise exactly two offspring, one boy and one girl. These children's adolescent sexual impulses will be stifled with specially prescribed drugs; at age 12 they will receive an appropriate career assignment, sensibly chosen by the community's Elders. This is a world in which the old live in group homes and are "released"--to great celebration--at the proper time; the few infants who do not develop according to schedule are also "released," but with no fanfare. Lowry's development of this civilization is so deft that her readers, like the community's citizens, will be easily seduced by the chimera of this ordered, pain-free society. Until the time that Jonah begins training for his job assignment--the rigorous and prestigious position of Receiver of Memory--he, too, is a complacent model citizen. But as his near-mystical training progresses, and he is weighed down and enriched with society's collective memories of a world as stimulating as it was flawed, Jonas grows increasingly aware of the hypocrisy that rules his world.
In my top 5 favorite books of all time. Lois makes an amazing world and gives you an interesting perspective. I have lost count of how many times I have re-read this book, it never fails to amaze me, 1000 stars ;).