The Giver Quartet | A Book (Series) Review

by - 7/09/2018

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably read or at very least heard of The Giver by Lois Lowry. If for no other reason than because the movie came out a few years ago, I'm sure you're at least somewhat aware of it.

I read it for the first time in junior high (I think? Maybe high school. Either way, it was in my formative years) and I remember my mind being blown by that ending. I won't spoil it, but let's just say the author leaves it up to the reader's interpretation and it's one of those rare times that that type of conclusion didn't make me angry. 

When the movie came out, I was honestly excited to watch it. As seems to happen with book-to-movie adaptations, the movie garnered a lot of criticism because it veered so much from the book. By the time I sat down to watch the movie, it had been so long since I'd read the book that I didn't remember (nor care) how different it was. I thought the movie was lovely and did a great job despite the differences. 

Suffice it to say.... The Giver is an amazing story rich with symbolism, a mysterious futuristic society, and a beautiful theme about the importance of memories, both good and bad. 

Fast forward to a couple years ago when I found out The Giver was actually a series! I had no idea, and while the ending of The Giver absolutely left room for more, I never really thought about it! However, I loved The Giver so much that it's since been on my list to re-read it and then the subsequent books, but I just now got around to it. 
Before I continue, let me reiterate one more time just how good The Giver is, and if you're looking for an amazing book, this is it. Read it. It's a quick one, and it is so thought-provoking and beautiful.

Unfortunately.... the rest of the books don't quite live up to the first.

Gathering Blue (Book 2) and Messenger (#3) were nowhere near as good. Gathering Blue is touted as a "companion" to The Giver and even that was a stretch. Once I finished it, I was confused. Nowhere at all were any characters from the first book mentioned, nor the society they lived in, or anything remotely relating (aside from one extremely vague no-name mention that would maybe spoil things so I'll leave it there). While I didn't hate Gathering Blue, I didn't find it very compelling and wasn't sure what it was supposed to be.

Messenger was perhaps a tiny bit better. It also included another new society (not the one of the first or second books) and connected the previous books (albeit only a little bit). Further, it brought in a mystical aspect that wasn't quite present in the first two. There were some lovable characters (mainly that of Matty), but I still was largely disappointed, and felt disconnected from the story line.

Enter Son, the final installment.

I'd been told that this one brought all the stories together in a satisfying way, and that it was worth it in the end. At the beginning of Son, we're (finally) thrust back into the society of The Giver with a new perspective - a birthmother, whose timeline parallels that of Jonas's assignment in the first book. In this strange society, girls are "selected" to bear children (it's all very scientific) but then are forced to immediately give up those children to other "family units" and virtually never have any connection with them. They're given special medication that removes their feelings toward these children, so it usually isn't a problem.

Until Claire comes around, and she's not taking her pills, and she feels an intense longing for her newborn son that she can't quite quantify, and certainly no one else (as they're all taking these pills) can understand.

The book is separated into three sections, and the first one was brilliant. I was absolutely captivated by Claire's search for her son, and what that meant in this type of society. The pacing was frantic and mirrored the beauty of the first book. 

Now, without spoilers, the rest of the book fell short. The second section was rather slow, and sends us into yet another society that has no connection to any of the other books. It was exhausting to get to know a brand new set of characters and customs this late in the game. It also included a lot of training for one arduous task that as a reader, I didn't quite understand the need for. The final section was confusing and odd, though it had some satisfying elements, such as sort of bringing all the books together. There were some large gaping holes, though. Perhaps there were too many characters to tie all together. Most dissatisfying were the rather intense supernatural elements that felt abrupt and strange and were never satisfactorily explained. 

Overall, I enjoyed it because I really connected with a mother's longing to be with her son. That is a compelling story line, especially for me, and I absolutely loved that aspect. The rest, however? Just a bit off the rails. I've heard that Lowry wanted the reader to have a lot of questions and fill in the blanks themselves, but I found that to be a bit too daunting a task (and maybe that says more about me than anything else ;) but thus it is so).

This is getting rather long but I'll just finish with this: 

I think Lois Lowry had a brilliant idea in The Giver, and I think it should have stopped there. I liked the open-ending conclusion and honestly don't think we needed more. I think she (or perhaps her publisher or editor) also changed her mind about the open-endedness and wanted to write more, which is fine, but in my opinion it cheapened the first book to have the ending basically quantified in the 3rd and 4th books. 

The Giver, on its own, is an incredible book (have I said that enough yet??). Read that one and stop there. :) 

If you must continue, the final one is worth a shot, but the middle two books really didn't do much for me. 

And... that's all I have to say about that! :)

Happy Monday.

You May Also Like

0 comment{s}

I'd love to hear what you have to say!