Teen Jonas lives in a Community that, on the surface, looks quite pleasant. Through a concoction of drugs, cultural amnesia and social indoctrination, this futuristic Community has practically eliminated pain, anger and discrimination. People never lie, and they always treat their fellow citizens with courtesy. Everyone goes to school or has a job—one selected for them that best fits their aptitudes. When residents get too old to work (or if they, for some reason, don’t fit in just right), they are simply “released” to Elsewhere—an idyllic place, we’re told, without worry or responsibility.

But even in this Community of sameness, not all are equal. And that’s where the Receiver of Memory comes in. It’s his job to hold the collective (and otherwise forgotten) history of humanity in his mind and soul. And now Jonas is selected to be that Receiver.

As soon as Jonas begins his training, receiving his very first memory from the former Receiver (who now calls himself the Giver), he learns that the world isn’t really just a black-and-white landscape. It’s loaded with sensations unknown in the Community: cold, color, joy, love. And he begins to understand how the Community, in its effort to eradicate discomfort, is destroying, both figuratively and literally, something far more precious: life itself.