A Guide to: The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
*March reading wrap-up was accidentally deleted. Wrap-up will be posted once I've redone it.
Please note this blog contains some light spoilers for the quartet!
1. The Giver
Length: 208 pages (Paperback Edition)
Rating: 5 stars
What it's About:
This middle grade dystopian follows main character Jonas who lives in a world devoid of love, choice and color but also peaceful and empty of warfare and hunger. However, when Jonas is chosen for his career path upon his twelfth year, it causes him to become increasingly disillusioned with his world.
This novel grapples with the importance (and even danger) of individuality and choice. This is one of my all time favorite novels (as well as most reread) and is as gut wrenching as it is hauntingly beautiful. Even all these years (and rereads) later I still find myself lulled into a false sense of security and longing for Jonas' community at the start of the novel. I still feel horror and heartbreak alongside Jonas as the truths of his world become apparent to him.
2. Gathering Blue
Length: 240 pages (Paperback Edition)
Rating: 4 stars
What it's About:
This is a companion novel to The Giver and the second in the quartet. It follows weaver Kira who, after she is left orphaned by her mother’s death, is chosen as the weaver of the singer’s robe (which is part of a yearly tradition in her village). The novel also features a wood carver named Thomas, a young singer named Jo, and Kira’s young friend Matt and his dog Branch.
The village in this novel is reminiscent of the one in The Giver. While much harsher and an obvious dystopia (not masquerading as a utopia as the community from The Giver did), there are still dark secrets about the village that are slowly revealed. As an artist (longtime writer and novice painter) I appreciated the emphasis on art in the novel and how it has the power to change things. I adored Matt and his dog companion Branch. Despite his rough and tumble upbringing, Matt was kind, generous and brave. Unfortunately, Kira really fell flat for me as a protagonist. She was far too passive and naïve, which made her decision at the novel’s conclusion feel out of character.
3. The Messenger
Length: 169 (Paperback Edition)
Rating: 5 stars
What It's About:
The novel follows Matty (Matt from Gathering Blue). Now several years older, he lives in a peaceful Village which is bordered by Forest with Seer (Kira from Gathering Blue's father). Selfishness is creeping into Village from the Trade Mart where people are trading away their deepest selves for frivolous items. After the decision is made to close Village to outsiders, Matty travels back to his birthplace to bring Kira to Village before it is too late.
This is my second favorite in the quarter in large part due to Matty. While he's more mature and refined than the dirty little boy we are introduced to in Gathering Blue, he maintains his kind heart, enthusiasm, and love of animals. This novel also reveals the fate of Jonas from The Giver (it was hinted at briefly in Gathering Blue) and it was nice to be able to see the man he has become. Lowry was very effective at making the second part of this novel very environmental; Forest felt ominous and sinister.
Length: 393 pages (Paperback Edition)
Rating: 3 stars
What It's About:
Claire is the birthmother of Gabe from The Giver. The novel is divided into three parts and begins shortly before Claire gives birth. Parts 1 and 2 follow Claire as she desperately tries to reclaim the son that was stolen from her. Part 3 takes place mostly from Gabe's perspective as he searches for Claire.
The first part of the novel takes place in the community from The Giver. I keenly felt Claire's loneliness and desire to be with her son even though I myself am not a mother. Part two takes place in a seaside town after Claire has lost her memory. I found this part to be a bit dull until Claire regained her memory and renewed her efforts to find Gabe. I also felt causing Claire to lose her memory detracted from her character; it essentially erased her entire reason for being and felt like a cheap plot device. The third part was fine until the end which felt rushed and, ultimately, unsatisfactory. This was my least favorite of the four books.
Final Thoughts on the Quartet:
Of the four books my favorites and the only ones I perceive myself continuing to reread are The Giver and Messenger. I think Lowry excels at characters (excluding Kira) and atmosphere (specifically one that is subtly sinister). However, I did feel let down by the way the final book concluded and by how many unanswered questions I had. If you have a strong desire to read the entire quartet then go for it. While I didn't enjoy the books equally, I don't regret reading them all by any means. However, I will note that The Giver can absolutely be read as a standalone (as can Gathering Blue and, for the most part, Messenger, though your understanding will be enhanced by reading Gathering Blue) if you don't feel like dedicating the time to the entire quartet.