Jonas lives in a perfect world. Everything in the world has been carefully planned and designed and carried out to make the world perfect. Each family has exactly one boy and one girl. All children get a bicycle at nine, no sooner, no later. At dinner, each family member brings up the feelings of the day; at breakfast, each family member relates his dreams. All families. Every day.
Twelve is the big year, the year each child will be assigned his job, the perfect job just for him. Jonas is eager, though perhaps a little anxious, to turn twelve and learn what his role in his society is to be.
He is shocked to learn that he is to become the Receiver of Memory, the one person in the society who holds all the memories, both good and bad, happy and sad, of the past in his head. He is given special privileges: he can ask any questions he wishes of anyone and he can lie. He studies with an old man, the former Receiver of Memory, a man who asks Jonas to now call the Giver.
And the Giver does given memories to Jonas: color, snow, the sky, families, pain, and – most powerfully – love.
As Jonas learns the black truths behind the perfect world he lives in, he and the Giver realize it is up to them to change this perfect world.