Jonas is just like any other boy in the Community. He goes to school, volunteers around the Community, and looks forward to the Ceremony of Twelve where he will be assigned a role in the Community. But yet, Jonas is not like everyone else. He has the ability to See Beyond, first manifesting itself as an ability to see color in a colorless world. And this ability to See Beyond is what enables him to become the next Receiver of Memory.
As he receives memories of Elsewhere and before the Sameness, and knowledge of true emotions, Jonas begins to see that the "perfect" Community he grew up in, is really far from perfect. But at first it's the joy. The true joy and love that everyone is missing. Jonas wants to share it with his friends. He wants Asher to see color. He wants his sister Lily to know that there really were animals once. And he wants to be able to make choices.
At this point, Jonas still believed in what he had been taught. That it's dangerous to let people make their own choices. But still, he has inner conflict over it all. He knows the joys that are missing. He wants to be loved by his family. And he realizes that without true pain and sadness, one cannot truly have happiness and love. He tries to justify the Community, but it's just that: justifying. And I know that if a thing has to be justified, it's probably not a good thing.
And then he learned what Release really is. Death of the undesirable. The Old, who have lived their lives. The repeat rule-breakers. The newchildren who fail to thrive properly. It was the Release of the twin newchild that really woke Jonas up to how bad the Community really was. But he didn't want to stand passively by and see it continue to happen. Jonas cared. He and the Giver were the only ones who could care. And he does do something. He rescued Gabriel from Release and let the Memories he held escape.
I'm not sure why Jonas stands out. Some books fade from memory soon after being read. Some books I still remember the story, but the characters fade away. Jonas hasn't done that. Maybe it's because you really experience everything with him. Funny how an author can create that in 3rd person past tense. (Just so you know, I hate present tense narrative.) The Giver is a powerful story. Jonas is the perfect character to experience it through. Because despite believing the lies, he is good. He knows right from wrong, and wrongs really affect him. The horror of war affects him so that he cannot allow the other Twelves to play war, meaningless though it is to them. And he wants love returned to the world. You feel that yearning with him, that horror when you realize his parents don't even know the meaning of the word "love."
Messenger and Son SPOILERS
Jonas's story doesn't end with The Giver. He finds a new home, with people who have love and freedom. Jonas has become the Leader of his new home, because he has the qualities necessary to be a true leader. Not a dictator, but a Leader. And he even gets married and has at least two kids. (I hope he has more, but it doesn't say.) Things aren't always perfect. Matty gives his life to heal the forest. Gabriel has to defeat the Trademaster. And of course, Jonas still suffers the consequences of having lived in the Community as a child. It's impossible for it not to have affected him. But still, Jonas gets a happy ending.
END Messenger and Son SPOILERS
The last three books aren't as good as the first, naturally, and they somewhat spoil the effect of the ending of The Giver, but I got attached to Jonas and wanted to know what else happened to him. Because when you have experienced the disillusionment of this "perfect world" with Jonas, you cannot help feeling that he is a part of your life now.