Ms. Lowry wrote The Giver in 1993 (Newbery winner), Gathering Blue in 2000, and finally Messenger in 2004. It is a series of loosely related dystopian novels. A very depressing series, if truth be told, but engaging and well written. Though I’ve read the first one several times (long before my blog), I’ve never reviewed it–yet. Last year I got ahold of the final book (my review), not realizing it was part of a series. I’ve just now read the middle one, and the whole thing makes a bit more sense. Imagine that.
All three novels are set in a repressive, futuristic society where the weak are put to death. It’s a place where mothers beat their children till they bleed, where ‘gift’ is not in the vocabulary, where murder, selfishness, and manipulation are the rule. A world described by words like arguing, cursing, accusing, shouting, muttering, bragging, and blood. It’s a dark and disturbing place. But this is where Kira, a young girl with a crippled leg, makes her home. Fortunately she has an incredible gift with thread, one that makes her useful.
The book opens with Kira mourning her mother’s death. Her father died on a hunting trip before she was born. Despite threats by village women who now want her property, the Council of Elders allows her to stay. In fact, she’s given preferential treatment in the Edifice, the one remaining building with glass windows and running water. It is her job to preserve the special ceremonial robe that records the world’s history. In the Edifice, she meets two more children with phenomenal skills of their own. The precious friendships that develop between them glow like a pink and orange sunset against this culture of hate. But these children, too, are both orphans. If you’re thinking something smells rotten in Denmark, you’re right.
I didn’t love this book. Like the others in the series, it’s not a happy read. I knew it wouldn’t be. But unlike the other two, it didn’t drive me to the end. I expected more of a page-turner. It was kind of like taking a bite out of a s’more and getting a mouthful of graham cracker. Don’t get me wrong; I like graham crackers. But I like them a lot more with chocolate and marshmallow. This book was just missing the filling.
In a way, however, it made me feel better. I, too, have written a trilogy, and it was the middle one that gave me the most fits. Maybe it’s something about second books. Or maybe nobody, not even a Newbery-winning author, hits the mark dead on every single try. That’s a rather reassuring thought.
Though this series is written at a fourth to fifth grade level, it isn’t really geared for young kids. I’d say middle school is a good age to tackle such disturbing social themes.
My reviews:Book one: The Giver Book three: Messenger And there’s now a Book four: Son