Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Seductive (Lowry's Words, Not Ours)
Lois Lowry explains in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech that she tried to "seduce" the reader. No, not that way—get your minds out of the gutter, Shmoopers.
What she means is that she wants to draw you in, and in a way ease your guard at the outset of The Giver. Think about it this way: when you first see Jonas's community, it doesn't seem all that bad. Everyone's nice to one another. The family is open and communicative:
Next, Mother, who held a prominent position at the Department of Justice, talked about her feelings. Today a repeat offender had been brought before her, someone who had broken the rules before. Someone who she hoped had been adequately and fairly punished, and who had been restored to his place: to his job, his home, his family unit. To see him brought before her a second time caused her overwhelming feelings of frustration and anger. And even guilt, that she hadn't made a difference in his life. (1.59)
(Okay, we admit, the thought of "sharing feelings" at dinner might make you want to hurl, but once you get past the eye-rolling, a violence-free world doesn't seem like a bad deal.)
But after you're lured into this placid, cookie-cutter community and thinking "Oh, this seems nice," comes the shocker: no freedom, no choice, no sex, and no real emotions.