In Lois Lowry's The Giver, the children born in the same year celebrate together a ceremony each year marking the entrance into a new stage in their lives. The most important of these is the Ceremony of Twelve, which is the final ceremony of childhood. At this ceremony, the community's twelve-year-olds officially enter into adult life, at least in part. They are no longer considered children but must adapt to adult responsibilities.
Also at the Ceremony of Twelve, the young people receive the adult Assignments that they will fulfill for the rest of their lives. These are selected for them based on the authorities' assessment of their skills and abilities. At Jonas's Ceremony of Twelve, he watches as a girl named Madeline is assigned to be Fish Hatchery Attendant. Another girl receives the role of Birthmother. Jonas's friend Asher becomes Assistant Director of Recreation, which pleases him. Another friend, Fiona, is made Caretaker of the Old.
For each young person, the Chief Elder also gives a little speech recognizing that person's differences. This is rare in the community, for people are generally trained to conform to the group in all ways and to leave their differences out of the picture. But at the Ceremony of Twelve, each new adult is recognized, just this once, as the unique individual that he or she is.
Something quite strange happens at Jonas's Ceremony of Twelve. Jonas is number nineteen, the nineteenth child born that year, but as the Chief Elder recognizes each young person in turn, she skips over Jonas. Jonas is horrified and ashamed, thinking that he has done something wrong, but the Chief Elder returns to him at the end of the ceremony, for she has a very special role for him, a role that will change Jonas's life forever: the Receiver of Memory.