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4.08.2015

Book Report - The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son

Get ready, because I'm about to hit with you four book reviews in one post!

Last month I read The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry, which consists of four books - The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

First, The Giver, which centers around 12 year-old, Jonas, who lives in a future world where things like choice, emotion, sexuality, and even color have been stripped from society. Everyone follows the path chosen sensibly for them by the communities' Elders. Children receive their job assignments at 12, and Jonas is given the strange, but important job of Receiver of Memory. Under the tutelage of an Elder called The Giver, Jonas is tasked with holding the memories of the entire human condition (love, pain, desire, war, death), so they will always be remembered without having to burden society with the overwhelming task. Once he learns the truth though, will he be able to go on living in society as before?
I really enjoyed, The Giver. The future dystopian society that Lois Lowry created was one of the more interesting ones I've read. The whole relationship between Jonas and The Giver was intense and I looked forward to seeing how it developed. So, I was a little disappointed that this book ended up being almost entirely just set-up. It hooked me though, and I was looking forward to seeing how the story progressed.

Which brings us to, Gathering Blue, the second book in the quartet.

Set in a different future dystopian society, Gathering Blue, follows newly orphaned girl, Kira. Lame from birth and no longer under the protection of her mother, Kira attempts to navigate her place in a society that has no use for the weak. Her village is small and there are little technological advances, and people survive only because they are strong and fight (most often each other) for all they have. Kira's skills with a needle and thread prove invaluable to those in charge though, and she is tasked with the job of repairing and continuing the embroidery work of their sacred robe which details the entire past of their civilization. As Kira starts her work she realizes her stitches not only record the past, but may be able to alter the future.
I enjoyed Gathering Blue as well. It didn't take me long to realize that this book has nothing to do with The Giver though (they do hint at the connection towards the end). Kira was a strong character, and I enjoyed her friend Matt as well. This was a stranger society than in The Giver, much more brutal and savage. Again, I wanted to find out more. How are they connected? Will Kira and Jonas ever meet? What is the story leading up to?

So, I moved on to the next book, Messenger.

Set in a third future dystopian society (not kidding), Messenger, centers around Matty, who we were introduced to as just Matt in the Gathering Blue. Having left his home and Kira behind, Matty now lives in Village and has blossomed under the guidance of a man called Seer. A refuge to all, Village, has always opened its doors to anyone in need, but something sinister is seeping into its residents and the surrounding forest; and the residents have voted to close its doors to all outsiders for good. Matty is in a race against time to find Kira and lead her back through the treacherous forest before Village closes its doors for good.
In Messenger the stories finally start to come together - a bit. We learn where Jonas and Gabriel (a character from The Giver) have been all this time. Village seems to be the utopia that everybody has been looking for...until it's not. Matty is a really strong character, and his story is the best developed in the entire quartet. I was surprised how much of Jonas and Kira's stories are just glossed over in the book. For me, there was a lot of unanswered questions. What became of the society Jonas left behind? They mention Kira really helped to change her village and how they did things there, but they give no explanation of how that happened or what she changed. Again, I liked Messenger, but I was starting to get frustrated with the series as a whole for starting a new story each book without really finishing the last one.

Then, finally, there is Son.

Set in a fourth future dystopian society, Son, tells the story of Claire. Claire is a former birth mother from the same society as Jonas in The Giver. After the birth of her child does not go as planned, she is relieved from her job as birth mother and goes to work in the fish hatchery. Somehow, though, she has slipped through the system, and is not given the same emotion-surpressing pills as the rest of society, and starts to love longingly for the child taken away from her. In the chaos that ensues when Jonas flees society, Claire escapes by ship and ends up shipwrecked in a new society with no memory of her former life. When it all comes back to her though, she realizes she must leave again to find her son. The only way out though is a harrowing climb straight up a dangerous cliff. Will she be strong enough to make it out? Will she be reunited with her son? 
I had the same feelings about Son that I did about the previous three books. I liked it on its own, but as the conclusion of the series it was unsatisfying. I was unable to find the underlying theme of these books. I have so many questions. It was more like four separate stories that kind of had some of the same characters in them. It was so odd to focus on a new character and so much of the past in Son because the conclusion was all about Gabriel vanquishing this evil person (spirit?) from the world. I feel like that was the story that needed the focus, and not the one that was told. There is also a ton of magic and mysticism in these books that never really gets explained as well. I assumed these are future societies on Earth, so how did we develop magic? What was the point of it all?

All in all, the books are interesting and enjoyable, just not as highly developed or interconnected as I would have liked.

Have you read this series? What did you think? Did I just miss the point, or did you feel the same as me? I'm just so confused because these are really beloved and highly praised books.

Well, at least I got to check off four books for my Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge.

A Book that became a movie (The Giver)
A Book with a color in the title (Gathering Blue)
A Book with magic (Messenger)
A Book set in the future (Son)

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