When I got to talk to Lois Lowry recently about her book Son, the conclusion to the Giver Quartet, we discussed the fact that we both had read 1984 and Brave New World in college, and we both believed that The Giver was the first novel for young people set in a dystopia. "I think I created a monster," she said. "I hope some new fad will emerge."
What sets Lowry's Giver Quartet apart is the books' lack of violence in a current crop of dystopic literature mired in graphic images of death and destruction. The world of The Giver was already ravaged by war. The dystopia we discover there is a reaction to war and a preventative measure against what the Elders perceived to be the causes of war. Colors. Music. Love. Emotion of any kind. We enter a world devoid of passion. The violence has been done, but its vestiges remain. This gives the book a fable-like quality we don't see in the bumper crop of dystopian fiction.
Lowry retains that fable-like quality for all four books. The stories of Jonas, Kira, Matty and Gabe are not tied to any particular city or technology. Each community Lowry explores has its own rules and rituals. The young people coming of age question the construct of their society; they begin to wonder if there is another way, begin to chip at the foundation of the Elders' ideas to discover something else truer beneath. They must uncover the morals of their own stories.