Since I liked The Giver so much, I decided to read the other three books in the quartet. The nice thing about YA books is that they are not much of a time investment! But the bad thing about YA books is that they are sometimes lacking in depth where depth would be warranted.
Each of the remaining books (Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son) had fantastic premises and explored interesting themes, but each suffered from rushed conclusions. The books built well at first, with good pacing and rising action and high stakes, but then when the final showdown had to happen, it happened so fast that it seemed abrupt. Maybe it was a length issue because YA books aren’t supposed to too long? For example, in one book, Evil is defeated (not just a character who is evil, but Evil writ large) for good by telling it a couple of anecdotes about people who didn’t let Evil win in their lives. That’s a good message on the one hand (that people don’t have to give in to evil) but kind of superficial on the other (really? Evil can be utterly vanquished forever by telling it a couple of stories?). It seems like kids would see through that. I guess I just disagree with it from a worldview standpoint.
I felt like these three books were more intense than the first one, and I’m not sure that they’d be appropriate for all middle schoolers. There was more violence in these, and the final book, Son, contains reference to incest, which, in my opinion is way too much for a kid to read about even though it was a mention rather than a scene and was portrayed as negative. I could be off in that assessment–I don’t have a middle school aged kid–and maybe that reference goes over most readers’ heads, but I wanted to mention it so you’d know to be prepared if you give the book to a child. I don’t know how parents/teachers handle that sort of thing. Do you discuss it with the child(ren) or wait and see if they ask?
Anyway, I am not panning these books–I think Lowry did a fantastic job with the highly imaginative premises, world-building, the character development, and the overall storytelling and pacing. I enjoyed Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son even though I found the endings a bit lacking.
Parents/Teachers: I’m interested to know how you handle books that contain difficult material. Do you talk it over with the kids, or just assume they will figure it out?
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