I started the new year off to a strong start reading. My goal for the year is 50 books, something that SHOULD be simple for me, but I’m already lagging behind.
For Christmas, my mom got me the fourth and final novel in The Giver series (collection?), called Son. I first read The Giver, by Lois Lowry, in sixth grade, and there aren’t many novels that have has such an impact on me.
If you haven’t read it, and you really should, it’s a coming-of-age and coming-of-knowledge story about a boy names Jonas, who, upon turning 12, is given an unexpected assignment in his community, a utopian sort of place that’s been so homogenized as to have eliminated everything like weather, pain, suffering, money, romance and freedom of choice. However, the citizens of the community have no memory of any of those things, so there is no sense of loss. Jonas though, is given the assignment of Receiver of Memory, which means he will become the sole member of the community with any memories of the past. His first memories are delightful: snow, sleds, sunshine. But over time, the grandfatherly figure called simply “Giver” must give Jonas memories that are painful: war, starvation, violence. Other memories cause a longing in Jonas, like the memories of grandparents, families and holidays.
Without going into too much detail, The Giver is an unforgettable, powerful read, and it changed my little 12-year-old life.
Ten years after the release of The Giver, Lowry wrote the first companion novel, called Gathering Blue, published in 2003. This novel is set in a completely different society, but echoes many of the same themes of The Giver. Starring Kira, a crippled female, it gives a nice contrast to The Giver, and may make the collection more appealing to both girls and boys. This novel, like The Giver, can stand alone and still be a great read. There is a hint of a small connection to The Giver, but it isn’t ever elaborated in this book.
The third novel was released in 2006, called Messenger. This is about the scrappy little boy from Gathering Blue, Matt, now grown into an intelligent young man. In this novel, The Giver and Gathering Blue finally have a real, clear connection. This novel evoked the most emotional response, and is guaranteed to result in a few tears.
Finally, a decade after I read The Giver, Lowry completed the series with Son, and I got to read a beautiful story and an amazing conclusion. It is a phenomenal ending to a powerful series, and though it doesn’t read as much of a stand-alone novel, it is worth waiting to read (or re-read) the first three novels. Claire, the protagonist, was the character to whom I had the strongest connection. She seems the most dynamic and honest of Lowry’s previous characters.
My dream would be to be able to teach all of these novels to a classroom. There’s so much wisdom about the world, about power and about individuality that would be valuable to children. But I would recommend them to any child or adult, with the caveat that they might be a bit difficult for children under 13.