Book Review: Son

Son
The Giver series #4
by Lois Lowry

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Children’s dystopian, fantasy

As a teenage Birthmother, Claire produces her first child of the three that are expected of her. But there are complications, and she is unceremoniously ejected from the job she’d been assigned. She begins to long for her son and will stop at nothing to find him again after he is taken from the community by Jonas, the recently appointed Receiver.

Well…what a strange, uncertain journey it has been through this series. In some ways, it seems like Son decently ties up the three books that come before it. In other ways, it seems like Lowry had no idea where she was going and took a rambling route to the end. I tend to assume that Lowry wrote The Giver without intending any follow-up. Then, considering how many years passed between each successive sequel that came out, I wonder if she had an ultimate plan in mind for this series, or if she just wrote each book as it came to her and tried to build on the previous. It would make more sense to me if the latter were true. Either way, though, I do appreciate being able to see more of the escapees from the first book. On the other hand, the existence of innate magical powers in quite a few people, in a series that started more as sci-fi than fantasy, is rather confusing.

I felt there were some weak areas in the book, even outside of the broader questions of simply what on earth is going on in this world. For example, I have a difficult time believing that Einar could really memorize so well the climb up the cliff that he had done only once, and an even more difficult time believing that the path up had not changed since the years before that Einar climbed it (plants should have grown, rocks might have crumbled, etc.). For that matter, since Claire’s reason for not leaving the seaside town by boat was her fear of the water, what was Einar’s? Why would he not just sail away, rather than attempt such a long, arduous, dangerous climb?

While I appreciate the storylines that Lowry does tie up in this book, I really wonder if we would have been better off left with The Giver as a standalone novel. On the other hand, many people like the series overall. It seems like the kind of thing you either love or hate. Though I’m personally in the middle somewhere, so maybe not. My final recommendation, though, is to read The Giver, if you haven’t already, and maybe just leave it at that, unless you’re really curious.

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Book Review: Messenger

Messenger
The Giver series #3
by Lois Lowry

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s classic dystopian

Moving from the harsh place he grew up, where perfection was valued and kids were abused by adults as a rule, Matty now lives in Village, where weaknesses are embraced and everyone generally treats each other with kindness. But unhappiness and unpleasantness are starting to creep in, and even the nearby forest, through which Matty came to his new home, and through which he’s traveled many times over the years, is beginning to grow hostile.

I do not know where Lois Lowry is going with this series at this point. I don’t understand much of anything after reading this third book in the series. And since, at the time of this book’s release, it seemed to be considered the end of a trilogy, I can understand why a lot of people were quite unhappy with it at the time that it came out. It sort of gives us a little continuation of the first book in the series, but it heaps on new questions and confusions, and puts absolutely none of them to rest. Why did Forest begin to become corrupted in the first place? Where did the Trade Mart come from, and how was it connected to Forest? What happened to the Trade Mart leader at the end of the book? I guess the book is meant to be one huge allegory about people giving up parts of themselves for something superficial, but it’s pretty subtle, so I really doubt kids of the age it’s meant for will pick up on that at all. And maybe that’s even what already happened in the village that Matty, the Seer, and Kira came from, considering that they’re pretty much just terrible people there, but it’s definitely not stated to be such.

I’m not necessarily against a story that leaves some questions unanswered, though I generally don’t prefer it, but this took that to a whole new level. There was really no resolution to anything but what I can only assume is a symptom of something greater. Will things just start to get bad again eventually? I hope not, because the fix in this book can’t really be applied again, not that the fix really makes sense to me in the light of the allegory the author may or may not have been intending. I still have the final book in the tetralogy to read, so maybe answers will come there, but at this point, I’d have a difficult time recommending that fans of The Giver continue the series.

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Book Review: Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue
The Giver series #2
by Lois Lowry

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s classic dystopian

When Kira’s mom dies, she’s left alone in a community that doesn’t care for her or her twisted foot. Fortunately, she has an almost magical creative gift that gets her the right kind of attention and saves her life. But once she gets a glimpse into the parts of the community most people don’t see, Kira realizes that there are some things going on that she never would have imagined.

Though this book didn’t have quite the charm that its predecessor, The Giver, had, I still enjoyed it. I appreciated Kira’s attitude and willingness to work hard to take care of herself, as well as her desire to help others. That mindset is clearly counter-cultural in her world and shows how a conscientious parent can affect their child in defiance of the world around them. Of course, if this book hadn’t been listed as a follow-up to The Giver, I would never have guessed they were meant to be related, but it’s interesting to me that, where The Giver had order, Gathering Blue has chaos. It’s really amazing to me that anyone could grow up in this world and be a halfway decent person, and the truth is, I’m not sure anyone could. Still, I enjoyed this story in its own right and loved the way the book’s title came into play. I’m intrigued by the overall world Lowry has built between these two books, and I’m looking forward to continuing the series to see how it all ties together.

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Book Review: The Giver

The Giver
Book #1
by Lois Lowry

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s classic dystopian

When 12-year-old Jonas is given his life assignment as Receiver of Memory for his entire community, he doesn’t know what to expect, or even what that means. But the more the Giver reveals to him, the more Jonas knows that he can’t continue to live in the emotionless, colorless world of conformity and blandness.

This book had me hooked from the start. The way Lowry builds the world slowly, while showing everyday life in the lead-up to Jonas’s assignment ceremony, is well done. Though I could guess at some of the revelations, others were definitely a surprise to me. And while, from our perspective in real life, it seems impossible for someone to go through what Jonas does and not want to make changes, it’s clear that these people are just that brainwashed, as they go along with the way life has been presented to them.

Unlike so many who read this book for a school assignment, this is my first time reading it. I’ve heard of it over the years, but it really wasn’t on my radar until my sister gave it to me for Christmas (along with the blu-ray of the movie, so I can compare them, which I’ll do soon). Not for the first time, I am so thankful for her recommendation, and while I can see that the next book isn’t exactly a continuation of this one, I’m very curious to see what else Lowry wrote about this world. It’s a great young-audience dystopian novel written before that became a trend.

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Book Review: Number the Stars

Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Classic children’s historical fiction

Annemarie Johansen doesn’t really understand why she has to pretend that her friend Ellen is her sister. Or why Ellen’s parents have to leave without her. But when Annemarie’s parents and uncle try to help Ellen’s family and some other Jewish people in Denmark flee to a safer country, Annemarie knows it’s important and will do anything she can to help, even if it’s dangerous.

I really appreciate that in so few pages and in language kids can understand and get into, Lowry not only paints a vivid picture of the danger and fear that those who lived in Nazi-occupied countries dealt with, but also touches on the resistance offered by non-Jews living in Denmark. I also liked seeing the love and loyalty the Danes had for their king, which is something most American’s can fully understand, and the way the scientific community pulled together to help save lives.

Many of us remember reading this book for school, though I didn’t remember it nearly as well as I thought (or maybe I was thinking about a different book the whole time, though if so, I can’t pin down what it was). Required reading or not, this is a good book to introduce young readers to the darkness that many in Europe faced during WWII.

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