We are introduced to a normal family. We are also introduced to the community, and we get a taste of their customs. The son, Jonas, is starting to hit a stage called The Stirrings, and is nervous about the Ceremony of the Twelves, where he will be assigned a job.
The Ceremony of the Twelves begins. Jonas isn't assigned, but selected. He has been assigned to be the Receiver of Memories. He is the Receiver and the potential Giver.
Jonas meets the Giver and receives important memories like snow, love, colour, and the sun. Everything seems fine at first, until he receives the memory of war. The memory traumatized him, and he starts to realize that something is off about the community.
Jonas and the Giver spectate a release, and Jonas realizes what a release is. He cries as his father injects a baby with poison and kills him. Jonas is yet again, traumatized. When he realizes that Gabriel, the baby the family had been watching, was going to be released, he decided to escape the community.
Jonas takes Gabriel and escapes by riding his bicycle. He rides across the bridge that marked the border from the community to Elsewhere. Finally, he's outside the community.
Gabriel and Jonas strive to make it to Elsewhere. They are cold, hungry and tired. They climb to the top of a hill and slide down a sled that Jonas had seen in his memories. Elsewhere was at the bottom of that hill. They make it.