Books #78-81 – The Giver Quartet

17234575After reading reviews of Matched which said that The Society was essentially lifted directly from Lois Lowry’s The Giver, I decided it was probably a good idea to read that Middle-School staple of dystopian fiction.

Then, naturally, it only made sense to read the other three books which together form the Giver Quartet.

And so then on to the review!

The Giver
Gathering Blue
Son – all by Lois Lowry


Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

The Giver, on its own, is a fair example of dystopian fiction – it sets up a society which appears to be utopian – everyone is happy, they grow at a specific pace, they are well-fed, they have jobs which suit them, they are matched to their partners, the are assigned children, who then grow up to have their own perfect lives, etc. etc.
Jonas is selected to be The Receiver of Memory – he receives the truth of life, memories of a time before Sameness, when people were free to make their own choices, and to feel the heights of pleasure and pain which are impossible in the level existence that exists in Jonas’s people’s life.

I did enjoy The Giver – I thought the end was frustrating. I don’t like ambiguous endings, and the end of The Giver is certainly ambiguous, but it wasn’t the worst in the world. I knew that there were three more books, so I thought more questions would be answered then, and I would be, if not totally satisfied, then at least have some of my questions answered.

I could not have been more wrong. The next three books are only loosely interlinked – Gathering Blue and Messenger both take place in totally different villages with totally different ways of life. And even Son, which returns to Jonas’ village, explains nothing whatsoever about, well, anything.
All the questions I had at the end of The Giver – besides one big one – were left unanswered. I still don’t know how you can remove colour, or share memories, or how collective memory was achieved. I don’t know what happened to Jonas’ town after the events of the Giver.

Not only that, but Gathering Blue established a new village, and never gave any answers about that, either – we see that three years later, things in that village have changed for the better but we don’t know how or why. Nor do we know why Kira left the village. We don’t know what happened Annabella, or why, or why the old Singer was chained, or whether he was unchained. We don’t know what happened Thomas, or the young Singer, or why Kira’s father was blinded, really, or what happened to the people who did that to him – there are a hundred questions left at the end of Gathering Blue.

And then we plunge into messenger – some of the characters are the same, and we know that things in the village from Gathering Blue have improved. We also have a reason for why things in this third village are disimproving – Trademaster. But that doesn’t explain why Forest is so angry, or where the powers come from, or how this is solved. Plus, it’s been three books now – what happened to Gabriel?? And how does fixing Forest change what happened to Village?

And then we plunge on to Son – this, at least, comes back (somewhat) to the original story of the Giver, returning to Gabriel. But then this introduces us to a fourth village, which is a totally different way of life once more – how are all these places established within a relatively small distance of each other so different? Why do some have electricity and some not? Once again, how do you get rid of colour?
Even Claire, whose story is told in Son, doesn’t get a proper resolution – yes, eventually, she does find out what happened her son, and Trademaster, the big villain introduced in the third book, returns. But was he the reason for the dystopian existence in The Giver? Was he the reason for the cruelty in the village in Gathering Blue?
Each book stands on its own, to an extent. There is enough explained in each that you could read them and enjoy them, but even as a loose quartet they’re frustratingly vague. I understand, of course, that certain questions don’t need to be answered, that they can be left to the reader’s own interpretation, but really, there were just too many of them here for me to be satisfied. I enjoyed, separately, the stories of Kira, Claire, Jonas and Matty, but I wish they had been better linked, and that I had been left with some answers each time, instead of a load more questions.

The Giver – Four Stars ***
Gathering Blue, Messenger, Son – Three Stars ***

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