The Giver was a recent selection for a book club I’m in, and so when I picked up my copy I figured I might as well get the ‘quartet’ edition that also has the other three books that follow: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. I don’t read a ton of YA fiction, so these were nice quick palate cleansers after The Devourers. 😉
THE GIVER (Book #1)
The world that Jonas lives in is a carefully orchestrated and controlled society. Families are created in labs, careers are assigned, interactions and relationships are rehearsed and devoid of deep emotion. There is admiration and respect… but not love or passion or any other deep emotion. There is no knowledge of an outside world, and everything is engineered into uniformity – there is no colour, no music, no history…no pain.
When he turns Twelve, at the ceremony where careers are assigned, Jonas is given the honour of becoming the community’s next Receiver. It’s a role of great importance, but surrounded in mystery.
When he starts his training with the current Receiver (who now becomes The Giver), he discovers that he will be responsible for experiencing and holding onto all the memories and history that have been passed down – the whole spectrum of what it means to be truly human. Colour, weather, animals, and music; family, love, peace, joy…. but also injury, hunger, loneliness, anger, and war.
As Jonas has his eyes opened to all that his community has separated themselves from, he has to wrestle with his new knowledge. The uniform Sameness is ‘safer’, but is lacking. Which life is better? And what will he do about it?
The Giver is a quick read, but delves into some of life’s important questions- would you give up free will, choice, the depth of the human experience, if it also mean no war, famine, or pain? As it’s a YA book it doesn’t go as deep into these thoughts as an adult might, but it’s a good starting point.
I knew the rough plot of this ahead of time, having seen the movie a couple years back. I’m not sure what the others in the series hold, but I hope there’s a continuation here, as I found the ending abrupt and somewhat unfulfilling. I have a problem with no resolution endings. 🙂
GATHERING BLUE (Book #2)
I’m reviewing these as I read them (so that I remember details), so as I write this, I have no idea what’s coming in books 3 and 4. I’m hoping/assuming there’s a tie-in somewhere? But as of now, I don’t see the connection between books 1&2. There was no overlap of characters or plot.
Gathering Blue is about Kira, a teenage (ish?) girl living in a rustic community. No exact date is given, but it seems to be set in the future, after our modern world has been ruined somehow…? People live in rustic handmade huts, bathe in streams, hunt and gather for food, etc. But the town centres around an ancient building that is clearly an old church (with running water? Somehow?).
After being orphaned, and with her future in jeopardy, Kira is taken in by the council elders because of her amazing gift to create beautiful fabric and embroidered designs. She is tasked with preserving a religious robe, and is given all the tools needed to do it.
She meets Thomas, a wood carver. He is also an artist orphan, taken in for a similar reason. Together they meet Jo, another orphan, a small child with a gift for singing. As they compare stories, they realize that all may not be as it appeared at first, and the benevolence of the elders may not have their best interests at heart.
Much like the first book, this one ends rather abruptly; I’m left with questions and a bit of disappointment about what’s going to happen to these characters that I’ve grown to care about.
MESSENGER (Book #3)
I was glad that this book brought about some clarity regarding the connection between the first two books. Without giving too many spoilers, Messenger centres around Village. It is a community of misfit outcasts from other places; their painful pasts lead them to create a peaceful and gentle village, where all are welcomed and provided for.
But as happens in any utopian society, the peace doesn’t last and villagers end up trading their goodness for things they think they want. Corruption fills the town and then the book got weirdly prophetic… the village that was founded on principles of welcoming, provision, healing, and compassion decided that they were better off without the outsiders. In a campaign headed up by a rogue leader, THEY START BUILDING A WALL TO KEEP OUT THOSE SEEKING REFUGE. I kid you not. Basically, in 2004, Lois Lowry wrote a book about 2017 America. Now if someone with magical healing powers wants to come forward and fix the whole mess in real life, that’d be great.
SON (Book #4)
The final book brings the story full circle. It is the story of Claire, a young girl from Jonas’ community in The Giver. When she turned 13, she was given the assignment of Birthmother- a vessel to produce children to be assigned to waiting couples. But she discovers which child is hers and follows his progress from afar, learning about the love that the elders prohibit. When her son goes missing, she flees the community to search for him- a journey that will cost her dearly.
Claire’s tale ends up tying together the stories of Jonas and Kira and Matty and Gabriel; it’s a lesson in the power of love, compassion, sacrifice, and family. It’s a great series, and while The Giver is the most well known, I’d strongly recommend all four books.