How to Read The Giver Series in Order by Lois Lowry

The first book in The Giver series in order is one that many of us will remember from our school years. If it wasn’t mandatory reading in your English class, it was likely still on library or classroom shelves. Author Lois Lowry did not write the book to fit within the confines of one genre. As a result, it has become a genre-defying, award-winning, best-selling classic.

The series begins with Jonas who lives in a world devoid of color. His life has structure and since he knows no different, Jonas never questions his community. That is, until the day comes for him to receive his role.

Each member of the community receives a role to maintain the oasis of their Village, such as a birthmother. But Jonas must train to become the new Receiver of Memory.

In his training Jonas begins to learn about the world before and outside of his community. He receives the memories and begins to question the perfection of the world he lives in and the leaders that oversee the strict rules. Jonas also sees color for the first time and experiences the multitudes of human existence, not just the sterilized version he had been living before.

About Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry did not have her first book published until she was 40. But it set her on the path of selling millions of copies, winning the Newbery Medal twice, and championing a new genre. She has also been at the center of thousands of book bans and challenges for her controversial and most popular book: The Giver.

Lowry had already won her first Newbery Medal in 1990 for Number of the Stars when The Giver came out. She would win her second Newbery in 1994 for The Giver before there was really a definitive young adult genre. The jump from children’s literature to adult was starker with very few authors writing for younger adults.

Not only was Lowry’s target audience adolescents, but she also did not shy away from mature themes in The Giver in order to help foster critical thinking and personal growth. The Giver is a coming of age story with a rebellious streak. Even though it is much less violent than modern young adult books, it ignited a wildfire of controversy.

Since its publication in 1993, it has been challenged more than 11,000 times to be banned in schools and libraries. The result has been a mix of wins and losses, but Lowry says the bans have typically only been for short periods.

It has become a classic and a pillar in young adult literature. The Giver has sold more than 17 million copies. There has also been a movie, play, musical, and an opera adaptation.

The Giver Series in Order

Again, Lowry did not write The Giver with a specific genre in mind, so the series includes elements of a futuristic dystopia, science fiction, and fantasy. She also never intended to return to the world after she wrote the first book. Lowry liked the ambiguity of the ending, but it became clear to her as time went on that many of her young readers did not.

So, with the prompting of a lot of fan mail from kids asking and wondering, Lowry returned to the world for a sequel and then two more books. She has said that the series is now complete with the four installments. While she does answer some questions about what happened to Jonas and about the community he left, Lowry did intentionally leave some things to the imagination even still.

  1. The Giver (1993)
  2. Gathering Blue (2000)
  3. Messenger (2004)
  4. Son (2012)

Does The Giver series have to be read in order?

It is not strictly necessary to read The Giver series in order of publication, but it is strongly recommended. The reason it is not necessary is because the first three books are linked through shared community and place, but feature different protagonists.

The fourth book also features a new protagonist, but is intrinsically linked to the first book in a way that the others are not. You should absolutely not read Son before reading The Giver. If you do so there will be spoilers for the first book.

However, your reading experience will be much greater if you read all the books in order of publication. This will follow the natural flow and evolution of the storyline and themes. The Giver ends very ambiguously, but if you decide to continue on with the series until the end, Son provides a very definitive ending.

So, it is important to read the books in order of publication if you intend to read the whole series. The Giver will be the best introduction to the world and characters. This makes publication order the best reading experience.

The Giver Adaptations

As we mentioned, there have been several adaptations of The Giver. In 2010, The Giver was adapted into a two-act play by Eric Coble. The script is available for purchase for classroom study or performances. Several schools and community theater groups have put on the production.

Next, the opera adaptation of The Giver came in 2012. The commission was by Minnesota Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. It is a chamber opera in one act by composer Susan Kander.

Shortly after, in 2014, Lois Lowry gave a musical adaptation by Nathan Christensen and Scott Murphy the authorization for community theater performances. However, this first began in the 2000s. There were developmental workshops in 2006 and 2007, then readings in 2008 and 2009, with festival performances in 2010 and 2011.

Finally, The Giver movie came out in 2014 to slightly mixed reviews and a low box office performance. The movie does change the ending from the book slightly and also adds various action scenes. This was to help the movie compete against other young adult adaptations in the 2010s that were blockbuster hits, like The Hunger Games.

Brenton Thwaites stars in the leading role as Jonas with Jeff Bridges playing the role of The Giver. Meryl Streep plays the role of the Chief Elder and other members of the cast include Taylor Swift, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, and more.

A Summary of The Giver Series

Since you should read The Giver series in order of publication, that is the order in which we have included the summaries for the books below. The descriptions will provide more detail on the seemingly utopian society Jonas grows up in, and other aspects of this community.

The Giver Series in Order

1. The Giver

Jonas lives in a seemingly idyllic community. Life is systematic and routine with birthmothers producing children, who are then assigned to the appropriate family units. Partners and jobs are assigned to the citizens and no one thinks to question the system.

But when Jonas receives the life assignment of Receiver of Memory, he begins to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community. He gradually learns that power lies in feelings that his community has been deprived of. But when his own power is put to the test — when Jonas must try to save someone he loves — he may not be ready.

Is it too soon? Or too late?

Gathering Blue Lois Lowry

2. Gathering Blue

Kira is facing a frighteningly uncertain future after she becomes an orphan and hurt in a civilization that shuns and discards the weak. Only a small boy offers to help while her neighbors are openly hostile. So, when she receives a summons to judgment by The Council of Guardians, Kira prepares to fight for her life.

But the Council has plans for her. She has an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, so Kira now faces new responsibility and a set of mysteries deep within the only world she has ever known. On her quest for truth, Kira will discover things that will change her life and world forever.

Messenger The Giver Series in Order

3. Messenger

The Village used to be a utopian community that prided itself on welcoming strangers, but trouble is brewing. Soon the Village will be cut off to all outsiders.

Matty is one of the few who can travel the forbidding Forest. So, he must deliver the message of the Village’s closing. He must also try to convince Seer’s daughter Kira to return with him before it’s too late.

But the Forest is now hostile to Matty too. He must risk everything to fight his way through it, armed only with an emerging power that he cannot yet explain or understand.

4. Son

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew of her life before.

They didn’t know that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. Or that she had become a Vessel at thirteen, had carried a Product at fourteen, had it stolen from her body.

Claire had a son, but she did not know his name or if he was even alive. Her job was to forget him, but that was impossible. Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.

Final thoughts

The Giver series by Lois Lowry was a harbinger of the young adult genre. It stood as a bridge between middle grade and adult before the genre was as widespread as it is now. The Giver asked difficult questions, withstood attempts at censorship and much criticism, and it remains as relevant and timely as ever 30 years after it was first published.

If you remember feeling frustration at the ambiguous ending of The Giver, then you should absolutely revisit the series in its entirety and read The Giver series in order. The quartet will provide a satisfying conclusion, while still leaving a door open for the imagination of the reader.

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