The main character, Jonas, lives in a community where there is no pain or grief. Jonas' father works at the community's nurturing center. Exactly one year after a new child’s birth they must pass certain requirements to have a life in the community. One child does not pass these tests and Jonas’ dad brings the child home for extra help through the night. Jonas develops an attachment to this child. At the annual Ceremony of Twelve Jonas is singled out and chosen to be the next Receiver of Memory. To be the Receiver, Jonas must learn of all the memories held by his ancestors. Throughout his training Jonas learns of war, pain, hunger, death, and loneliness, these are all things he has never learned of. At the evening meal with his family one night, Jonas, hears his mother say a child is going to be released from the community. Wondering about release, Jonas goes to training the next day and asks the Receiver of Memory about release. The Receiver then shows Jonas a video of Jonas’ father releasing a child. Jonas recognizes the look of the kid from his memories, he uses his mind and remembers the look of death, this was the same look of the new child. The Receiver and Jonas are both in disagreement with the way the community is run and devise a plan to escape and help the community forever. Their plan goes to waste when that same night Jonas hears that the new child being taken care of by there family is soon to be released. Jonas runs away from the community, taking the baby with him. After using all of his memories to get through the horrible weather, both Jonas and the child survive and arrive at the fabled Elsewhere.