The Giver is one of those well-loved books that's been around for ages that I've somehow managed never to pick up. Until now! People weren't making a fuss when they talk about how good this book is. I wouldn't call it a dystopian book, but it is set in a future where the rules and structure of society have changed dramatically.
Lowry introduces these differences very slowly. It starts with something small, like Jonas referring to his sister as a Seven, not that she is seven. As the book progresses, more and more terms come out that begin to illustrate just how different this world is from our own. I think Lowry was very clever in her plot progression. Everything starts of seeming very idealistic. It's different, but not dramatically so. There are rules in place so everyone is taken care of and everything is fair.
But then Jonas becomes the Receiver of Memory and suddenly things don't seem so perfect. The shell is cracking and Jonas is seeing through the cracks into the dark underbelly of his perfect world. So like I said, not exactly dystopian, but foul things are clearly at work.
This book seems a pretty good metaphor for how our own world works. Many people are comfortable and happy. They have access to the basic needs of life as well as luxuries and things that make life easy. But they don't always see all the terrible things that are happening elsewhere. And if they do, sometimes they just try to ignore it. Just because you live a perfect happy life does not mean the world is a perfect place, though. It's important for us to remember that there is no 'us' and 'them.' There are only people. We're all here together, and when some of us suffer, we all suffer.
If you were like me and haven't read The Giver yet, read it!