20 January 2011

Thursday Re-Read: The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger by Lois Lowry

The Giver:
"It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened."

Thus opens this haunting novel in which a boy inhabits a seemingly ideal world: a world without conflict, poverty, unemployment, divorce, injustice, or inequality. It is a time in which family values are paramount, teenage rebellion is unheard of, and even good manners are a way of life.

December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve year old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man -the man called only the Giver -he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world.

Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.

Gathering Blue:
"Mother? " There was no reply. She hadn't expected one. Her mother had been dead, now, for four days, and Kira could tell that the last of the spirit was drifting away ... Now she was all alone.

Left orphaned and physically flawed in a civilization that shuns and discards the weak, Kira faces a frighteningly uncertain future. Her neighbors are hostile and no one but a small boy offers to help. When she is summoned to judgement by The Council of Guardians, Kira prepares to fight for her life. But the Council, to her surprise, has plans for her. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, the young girl faces new responsibilities and a set of mysteries deep within the only world she has ever known. On her quest for truth, Kira discovers things that will change her life and world forever. A compelling examination of a future society, Gathering Blue challenges readers to think about community, creativity, and the values that they have learned to accept. Once again Lois Lowry brings readers on a provocative journey that inspires contemplation long after the last page is turned.

He noticed Kira reaching for her pack and spoke sharply to her. “What are you doing? We have to move on a minute. It’s dangerous here.” She hadn’t seen the deadly thing that had grabbed at Matty, but he knew there would be more; he watched the bushes for them.

It had come for him first, he realized. He did not want to be the first to die, to leave her alone.

To his dismay, she was removing her embroidery tools. “Kira! There’s no time!”

“I might be able to . . . ” Deftly she threaded a needle.

To what? He wondered bitterly. To create a handsome wall-hanging depicting our last hours? He remembered that in the art books he had leafed through at Leader’s, many paintings depicted death. A severed head on a platter. A battle, and the ground strewn with bodies. Swords and spears and fire; and nails being pounded into the tender flesh of a man’s hands. Painters had preserved such pain through beauty.

Perhaps she would.

He watched her hands. They flew over the small frame, moving in and out with the needle. Her eyes were closed. She was not directing her own fingers. They simply moved.

He waited, his eyes vigilant, watching the surrounding bushes for the next attack. He feared the coming dark. He wanted to move on, out of this place, before evening came. But he waited while her hands moved.

Finally she looked up. “Someone is coming to help us,” she said. “It’s the young man with the blue eyes.”

I'm reviewing all three of these books because I believe this is a series that really should be read in close succession. Also, it's a series that is strange in that I'm pretty sure everyone has read the first book (it's required reading in most schools) but never heard of the sequels. I think that's sad because the sequels are really great books and they bring some needed closure to the first book.

These books are truly wonderful dystopias. They each pick at a different non-working society, pointing out the problems with personal freedom. In The Giver the society has taken away personal freedom and is highly regulated for sameness. They've taken hardship, pain, loss, and even color from the daily lives of the people. In Gathering Blue the society is full of poverty, and personal freedom is pushed aside in favor of survival. Only a select few leaders have personal freedom, and even that may be an illusion. Messenger is about a society that is built on the flaws of the other societies and offers democracy and personal freedom, and it shows the benefits and the pitfalls of giving people the liberty to do as they please. Although each book follows a new lead character the leads are interconnected and you get to see their growth and reactions to the plot adversities. The characterizations are great, taking into account that the characters are children and yet matured through the problems they have encountered. The plots flow logically, full of suspense but with just enough breadcrumbs along the way to keep the plot flowing and surprising but not illogical. And it has a dynamite cliffhanger ending that gives you just enough information that you can imagine that everyone finally gets their happily-ever-after.


  1. So glad I happened upon your blog. Like many others, I'd never heard of the second and third books either. I love The Giver, and now I can't wait to read the other two.

    1. There's a fourth too! It comes out in a few weeks! The Son