Off the Shelf: Popular for Young Adults (Book Review)

With the release of the  movie version of The Giver, the first novel in Lois Lowry's quartet, new life has been bestowed upon the award-winning collection.  Messenger was by far my favorite of the first three which is why I'm skipping right past reviews for The Giver and Gathering Blue.  It had a valuable and insightful philosophical message on human nature, along with action and fantasy, and it did a lovely job of tying in the lives and fates of the endearing and likable heroes of the first two books, Jonas and Kira respectively. 

In this haunting tale we see how greed, selfishness and vanity can destroy all that is good with civilization when allowed to take precedence over its humanity.  Forest then becomes a metaphor for how these evils can spread and take over a society, a valuable lesson for young readers.

While Matty's persona comes to fruition, we are also reunited with Jonas (now simply referred to as Leader) and Kira.  I liked that "the gifts" possessed by these and other main figures were explained further and became critical components to the overall plot.  I know many readers were disappointed with the end of this novel (I won't ruin it for you), but it should not have come as a surprise since Matty is told by Leader throughout the story to "save his gift."

However, there are still some aspects that are left unresolved for the reader. For instance, I loved the story line of the Trade Mart, but felt a bit robbed that Lowry didn't elaborate further.  Trade Mart is where Villagers trade parts of their soul for material or superficial possessions leading to the eventual demise of the core of their community.  Considering this facet of life in Village is what ends up destroying the very foundation for which it was formed, the novel leaves too many unanswered questions pertaining to it.    Also, while the book reunites its readers with Jonas and Kira, it does not fill in the gaps as to why and how they are who they are today.  In the novel, eight years have passed since we left Jonas in The Giver, two critical years since leaving Kira in Gathering Blue, and readers miss out on crucial happenings in both their lives. 

Is this a good series for your child?  Well, my seventh grader liked The Giver, but said it got a bit boring toward the end (a statement I'll attest to.)  I read Gathering Blue, but admitted to my son I didn't think he would enjoy it on the basis that there wasn't enough action.  However, now that I've read Messenger, I've re-evaluated my suggestion to him.  I think he will really enjoy Messenger, BUT (because I'm a stickler for order) only if he goes back and reads Gathering Blue first.  They are easy enough books to read and not long, and it will be worth it.  I would recommend the entire series to grades 6 and up - most younger readers may miss out on the symbolism and inferences needed to fully grasp the overall message of the novel.

Lowry does a wonderful job of keeping the reader interested with an intriguing and mysterious plot, plus gives Messenger enough action to keep the attention of most tweens and teens. I am looking forward to reading Son, the final book in this quartet, which was, admittedly, an afterthought by the author.   Maybe some of the holes will be filled.

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