Saturday, January 18, 2014

Messenger and Son by Lois Lowry


Messenger
by Lois Lowry
2004
****
4 stars - very short and to the point

ALR Green - nice little puppy


The third volume of the Giver Quartet, Lois Lowry's books for young readers.

This slim book seems more like a bridge story than one that stands on its own. In Messenger, Lois Lowry starts to tie together elements from the first two books in the series. Matt (whom we met in the last book) has run away from his community and finds himself welcomed into the Village. The Village is a pleasant enough place. Not the dystopia of the first novel, nor the feral society of the second. Something in between. 

It's the land of misfit toys. A place that prides itself on taking in refugees from other communities. But something is amiss (isn't it always). Pretty soon, the community built as a haven for those persecuted in their homelands starts to have discussions about closing the borders (hey, where have I heard that before).

If you're reading the full quartet, include this one, but I'm not sure I would recommend it on its own. I will say that it is a bit darker than the previous novel and the descriptions of the forest as a sentient and malevolent being were creepy even for this grownup.





Son
by Lois Lowry
2012
*****
5 stars - wraps things up

ALR Green - animals just as decorative characters



The final volume of Lois Lowry's Giver Quartet for young readers.

Son brings us back to the same time and place as the first book in the series, The Giver. We're back in that magical land where nobody ever feels pain, everybody has the right job, is well nourished, and nothing bad ever happens... ya think?

In The Giver we met Jonas and his family and the infant that they were nurturing. Son shows us the origins of the infant and focuses on a different member of the community, Claire, and her quest to find her child.

Here's the deal. In utopia, in order to keep everything on the straight and narrow, folks start popping pills once they hit puberty. The pills are certainly some sort of hormone suppressant as they keep teenagers from going bonkers and pretty much suppress all those icky emotions like love. So these dorked out folks still want to keep things running, but with no sex drives, where to get babies?

Enter the Vessels. Every year, a handful of twelve year old girls are given the "honor" of becoming brood mares for the community. They get artificially inseminated, give birth (blindfolded), and their babies are whisked away to be awarded to an appropriate family. Works for everybody.

Everybody except Claire, who isn't so good at the job, gets the boot, doesn't take her drugs, starts to (yikes) feel things and sets out to find the child that was delivered from her body.

Son has a lot more action than the previous two novels. Claire turns into something of a G. I. Jane and there is a part of her adventure that is a real nail biter. 

By mid book, the reader knows the fate of all the characters introduced in the first three volumes. It's all coming together. 

What I love about this series for young people is how it shows youngsters making important decisions and taking on big responsibilities. The kids in these books are dealing with life and death and putting family and community before themselves or perhaps leaving their families and communities in order to find a better life. Some have happy endings, some do not. They take chances, they do the right thing. 

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