The Giver Quartet is a series of 4 books that take place at the same time, a few years ahead, or a direct sequel to a previous book. This timeline takes place in the books, not the movie.
- Jonas, a 12-year-old boy, lives in a Community isolated from all except a few similar towns, where everyone from small infants to the Chief Elder has an assigned role. With the annual Ceremony of Twelve upcoming, he is nervous, for there he will be assigned his life's work. He seeks reassurance from his father, a Nurturer (who cares for the new babies, who are genetically engineered; thus, Jonas's parents are not biologically related to him), and his mother, an official in the Department of Justice. He is told that the Elders, who assign the children their careers, are always right. (The Giver)
- Claire's assigned occupation in the community is Birth Mother, whose primary responsibility is to give birth. Claire is nearing the end of her pregnancy. She gives birth to her child at 14, but complications during labor necessitate delivery by Cesarean section. Three weeks after giving birth, Claire reports to the birthing unit office and is reassigned to work at the Fish Hatchery. Before she leaves, she inquires after the baby she delivered, and the officer informs her that the baby is healthy, accidentally informing Claire that the child is male and number Thirty-Six in his year. Claire retains curiosity for her son as she begins work at the Fish Hatchery and begins casually volunteering at the infant nurturing center to see him. As she plays with Thirty-Six, she quickly grows to love him, a feeling she finds that she alone experiences. She later realizes that all adult community members take pills that suppress emotions. As a Birth Mother, she was instructed not to take the pills, and the matter was overlooked in her reassignment. (Son)
- Jonas's father is concerned about an infant at the Nurturing Center who is failing to thrive, and has received special permission to bring him home at night. The baby's name will be Gabriel if he grows strong enough to be assigned to a family. He has pale eyes, like Jonas, who becomes attached to him, especially when Jonas finds that he is capable of being given memories. If Gabriel does not increase in strength, he will be "released from the Community". In common speech, taken Elsewhere. This has happened to an off-course air pilot, to chronic rule breakers, and to elderly people. Soon after, the day finally arrives, and Jonas is assembled with his classmates in order of birth. All of the Community is present, and the Chief Elder presides. Jonas is stunned when his turn is passed by, and he is increasingly conspicuous and agonized until he is alone. The Chief Elder then explains that Jonas has not been given a normal assignment, but instead has been selected as the next Receiver of Memory, to be trained by the current one, who sits among the Elders, staring at Jonas, and who shares with the boy unusual pale eyes. The position of Receiver has high status and responsibility, and Jonas quickly finds himself growing distant from his classmates, including his close friends Asher and Fiona. The rules Jonas receives further separate him, as they allow him no time to play with his friends, and require him to keep his training secret. They also allow him to lie and withhold his feelings from his family, things generally not allowed in the regimented Community. Once he begins it, Jonas's training makes clear his uniqueness, for the Receiver of Memory is just that — a person who bears the burden of the memories from all of history, and who is the only one allowed access to books beyond schoolbooks, and the rulebook issued to every household. The current Receiver, who asks Jonas to call him The Giver, begins the process of transferring those memories to Jonas, for the ordinary person in the Community knows nothing of the past. These memories, and his being the only Community member allowed access to books about the past, give the Receiver perspective to advise the Council of Elders. The first memory is of sliding down a snow-covered hill on a sled, pleasantness made shocking by the fact that Jonas has never seen a sled, or snow, or a hill — for the memories of even these things has been given up to assure security and conformity (called Sameness). Even color has been surrendered, and the Giver shows Jonas a rainbow. Less pleasantly, he gives Jonas memories of hunger and war, things alien to the boy. Hanging over Jonas's training is the fact that the Giver once before had an apprentice, named Rosemary, but the boy finds his parents and the Giver reluctant to discuss what happened to her. After Jonas casually speculates as to life in Elsewhere, the Giver educates him by showing the boy hidden-camera video of Jonas's father doing his job: as two identical community members cannot be allowed, Jonas's father releases the smaller of identical twin newborns by injecting the baby with poison before putting its dead body in a trash chute. There is no Elsewhere for those not wanted by the Community — those said to have been "released" have been killed. Since he considers his father a murderer, Jonas initially refuses to return home, but the Giver convinces him that without the memories, the people of the Community cannot know that what they have been trained to do is wrong. Rosemary was unable to endure the darker memories of the past and instead killed herself with the poison. Together, Jonas and the Giver come to the understanding that the time for change is now; that the Community has lost its way and must have its memories returned. The only way to make this happen is for Jonas to leave the Community, at which time the memories he has been given will flood back into the people, as did the relatively few memories Rosemary had been given. Jonas wants the Giver to escape with him, but the Giver insists that he will be needed to help the people manage the memories, or they will destroy themselves. Once the Community is re-established along new lines, the Giver plans to join Rosemary in death, who is now revealed to be his daughter. (The Giver)
- Claire is told that Thirty-Six is going "Elsewhere" for his failure to thrive according to the community's standards. (Son)
- The Giver devises a plot in which Jonas will escape beyond the boundaries of the Communities. The Giver will make it appear as if Jonas drowned in the river so that the search for him will be limited. The plan is scuttled when Jonas learns that Gabriel will be "released" the following morning, and he feels he has no choice but to escape with the infant. (The Giver)
- Before Claire can do anything, her son is saved and taken away by Jonas. (Son)
- Their escape is fraught with danger, and the two are near death from cold and starvation when they reach the border of what Jonas believes must be Elsewhere. Using his ability to "see beyond," a gift that he does not quite understand, he finds a sled waiting for him at the top of a snowy hill. He and Gabriel ride the sled down towards a house filled with colored lights and warmth and love and a Christmas tree, and for the first time he hears something he believes must be music. (The Giver)
- Claire attempts to follow Jonas and Gabe on a supply boat, but the boat soon encounters a strong storm and is shipwrecked. Claire is rescued from the beach the supply boat shipwrecked on. She is taken in by a midwife, Alys, while she tries to regain her memory, as she has suffered from temporary amnesia after the wreck. Once her memories return, a man, Lame Einar, trains her to be able to escape the village they are in. She must be able to climb a steep cliff up out of the valley. After climbing the cliff, she meets an evil entity, Tradesmaster, which offers to take her to her son if she trades her youth. Claire agrees and is turned into an old woman, and her son, Gabriel (aka Gabe), is located. (Son)
Kira, who has a deformed leg, is recently orphaned (her mother abruptly dying from unknown sickness and her father years past dying on a hunt with the Hunters by being killed by The Beasts) and must learn to survive in a society that normally leaves the weak or disabled exposed to die in the fields.
Kira needs a reason for the Council to keep her in the village and not take her to the Field, which is certain death at the hands of The Beasts. A member of the Council, Jamison, defends Kira during the trial, much to Kira's surprise. He convinces the Council that Kira has a gift for embroidery. She is found worthy of life in their society in the trial and is given the task of repairing the Singer's robe.
She is taught how to further solidify her talent from a much older woman, Annabella. Annabella continues to teach Kira how to create dyes for different shades and hues for her threadwork. To Kira's dismay, she learns that there is no ability to create the color blue for the threads she will be using. Eventually, to Kira's surprise, Annabella tells her that with her own years and knowledge, she knows much of the society's history and even goes so far as to say that there really are no Beasts, contrary to the society's beliefs. Kira is unsure what to think of that revelation or what Annabella really means by it.
Along the way, she becomes closer friends with a younger boy, Matt, and makes a new friend in her neighborhood at her new home, Thomas. A boy around Kira's age, Thomas is also an orphan and has lived there since he was very young because of his abilities. It is learned that he is the woodworker who maintains and improves the Singer's staff, which, in turn, helps the Singer remember the history of the society as he sings the lengthy song. Together, they help each other bring out the best in their talents, preparing for The Gathering. Jamison, the Guardian who fought for her life in the trial, becomes somewhat of a mentor in her new home. He is kind and instructive but also very stern.
Kira slowly learns that her life is less than idyllic. Thomas hears crying in her building, and they discover another orphan, a very young girl, Jo, whose ability to sing is magnificent; she is kept with intent to eventually replace the current Singer. Jo is scolded and punished if she does not sing. Kira secretly befriends her and sneaks into Jo's locked room at night to comfort her. Kira realizes that the three do not have as much freedom as they had previously thought. Annabella abruptly dies, and Kira is left to continue her work. That and the secluded life that a very young Jo must live help Kira decide to find out the truth about her society.
On the day that the Singer sings the Song at the Gathering, Matt is nowhere to be found. At the Ceremony of the Gathering, she notices that the current Singer has the staff that Thomas has worked so hard on and is wearing the robe that she repaired and enhanced. She realizes that his feet are chained, injured, scarred, and bleeding and so that he is essentially a prisoner, kept for this event because of his talent. The implication is that she and the others with Gifts, which the Counsel has saved for their jobs, are also prisoners. Their gifts are in control of the Council, by tenants who, without any creativity of their own, seek to control the three, to provide a future that they envision.
After a long absence, Matt returns with a blind man from the distant Village of Healing. The man wears a blue shirt, something that Kira's people are unable to make. It turns out that he is the father who Kira thought was dead, Christopher. It is revealed that he had been attacked years earlier by another hunter, who was jealous of his immediate potential of being a member on the Council of the Guardians. First, he was beaten and then had his face stabbed and so lost his sight. Being taken to the fields to die with the other rejected ailed, injured, and dying citizens of their society, he was rescued by some people he could not see and took him to the Village that he now lives in. It is made up of injured and disabled people who help one another, rather than bicker and fight for their lives as Kira's does. Matt excitedly explains that they know the way to make blue threads and brings plants that will allow Kira to do the same.
After a long heartfelt reunion with his daughter, Christopher reveals that he has enemies on the Council. The one who maimed him years before was none other than Jamison. He tearfully apologizes for taking so long to return to get her. Because of his memory loss caused by the beating and his loss of sight, he had no way of finding her. Matt had gone looking for a way to make blue for Kira, stumbled upon Christopher's Village, and explained where he came from. Events began to roll forward in such a way that Christopher could again reunite with his daughter.
Kira begins to wonder if her mother's sudden death and the deaths of the two other orphans' parents were actually by the Council's hand to acquire the young, gifted children so that it could mold them into creating the future that it wants.
Christopher cannot stay and is forced to return, and Kira decides to stay in her own community to continue to embroider the Singer's robe and help improve the society she lives in. Matt is designated as the 'eyes' that will help Christopher find his way back. It is implied that Thomas, Kira, and Jo, being the new holders of the Gifts, have the opportunity to change the cycle of their society and to improve the conditions in which they live vastly by using their gifts to influence the actions of their people.
Matt tells Kira that in the Village all are important, and all are married, which she would have to do without in her society in which the injured and impaired are seen as worthless wastes of space. He continues to tell her about a boy from the Village who has blue eyes, is around her age, and is not injured in any way in the hope that will entice her to come with them. Kira declines to go with them to the Village, but it is decided that she will follow once her work in her current task is eventually finished. In the meantime, Matt will travel back and forth between Kira and her father Christopher, being called their Messenger, relaying their messages. (Gathering Blue)
Many of the people in Village are like Seer and are cast out from their old communities and sometimes seriously injured, but they have made themselves new homes in Village. Most of the Villagers are reasonably altruistic, and Village never lacks in people who are willing to help another Villager overcome some disability. Matty is from a community in which people know only what the Community tells them and those who do not fit the norm are usually put to death.
Outside the safe boundaries of Village is the Forest, a foreboding realm that most of the Villagers fear. In spite of the lack of dangerous beasts, Forest itself is animated. It is capable of delivering "Warnings" in the form of injuries, caused by such things as sharp twigs, stinging insects, or poisonous plants, all of which attack deliberately if Forest is entered. Those who enter Forest again after being warned are killed by Forest itself. Matty, whom Forest seems to favor, has gone through Forest many times without incident. Therefore, he has become Village's messenger, carrying word to the other communities scattered throughout the region. At one point, Leader (Jonas from The Giver) says that he received a barge full of books from the Community and that it has changed.
Very early in the book, discord appears in Village. People who trade at a gathering, Trade Mart, change from being compassionate and generous to angry and impatient. The temperament of Villagers changes and they decide to close their borders and stop permitting the displaced and unwanted of other communities to enter. Seer, in the wake of this sudden change, decides to send Matty to travel through the Forest to retrieve his daughter, Kira, who lives in a town several days away. The journey soon becomes gravely perilous, as the Forest begins to attempt to entangle Kira and Matty. Leader's ability of remote viewing, which the book often refers to as "seeing beyond," allows him to sense the danger. He enters the forest to save them, only to be captured himself. Kira, who has the ability to weave prophecy-like patterns in thread and cloth, uses her gift to contact Leader, who tells her to have Matty use his gift to save them.
The gift is a special ability that Matty possesses but hardly understands, which makes him mad and results in a fury: a power of healing, which causes wholeness from the inside out. Matty puts his hands to the ground and manages to restore the integrity of Forest and people alike, at the expense of his own life. Leader names Matty as "the Healer." (Messenger)