The Giver – Now, folks, THIS is what a dystopia should be…complex, controlled, dysphoric and incredibly, believeably real. Jonas is selected to become the next Receiver of Memory of his drab, gray, deprived community. He seems to have a special sight that makes him the perfect candidate to absorb all the memories his community can no longer hold now that they have switched to “Sameness.” The previous Receiver, now known as the Giver, must lay hands on Jonas to transfer all the memories, both positive and negative, of the past to the new Receiver. Many of the shared memories are painful and Jonas also discovers some horrific things which are going on in his own world. Anyhow, I love this one and have reread it many times.
Gathering Blue – This was an interesting, albeit predictable, sequel to The Giver. I’d never read this one before so Kira’s story was new to me. She lives in a separate society (in the same time period as Jonas) that has also survived the Ruin of civilization. However, her community has done this not with Sameness but with a regression to a simpler life of sorts. There seems to be none of the advanced technology or medicine that we saw in The Giver. People seem to be constantly fighting here; poverty and disease run rampant like the community’s many unattended “tykes.” As in Jonas’ community, those who cannot work or do not fit in because of a disability are not valued. Instead of being released, though, they are sent to “the Field” and left, presumably to die. Kira is born with a mangled leg, but is not discarded because her mother pleads her case before the Council of Elders. When Kira suddenly becomes orphaned, she is spared once again because she has a gift for weaving intricate patterns and colors in cloth. While I liked this sequel, I found it fairly standard fare typical of the genre.
Messenger – This second sequel to The Giver traces Matty, the small boy who befriended Kira in Gathering Blue, in his new home in Village. (At the risk of giving spoilers, let me simply say that Gabe and someone very like Jonas also appear.) An unexplained evil seemed to be plaguing Matty’s new home: Village is experiencing internal discord, the Forest nearby is thickening, and something within the town is making people sick. Matty is sent out on one last errand before Forest and the walls of Village are closed forever. This one is far more fantastical than the previous two, although I did not find it quite as predictable. I know many readers find the end of The Giver unsatisfying; I’d say this one is differently but equally so.
Son – I really wanted to read this one when I saw it published in hardcover, although I’d previously had no interest in the other two sequels since I’d heard they don’t directly deal with Jonas and Gabriel. Instead, I was satisfied to leave Jonas and Gabriel exactly where I believed they’d be: happy, safe, productive, and Elsewhere. A revisit to their stories (which Son DOES provide) made the whole series worth a read. I was pleasantly surprised to find out where Elsewhere was and just how the two were doing in their future lives although I hadn’t expected it to be quite this way. The novel attempts to weave together all three of the previous tales and does a fair job of this. I found some discrepancies and unexplained instances annoying (showing that Gabe and Jonas had arrived on a bicycle and not a sled, for instance, and the lightness of their eyes being so inexplicably similar) but overall, I felt the story fit. Son is mainly the story of Claire, the Birthmother of Gabe, originally known as Newchild 36, from the original community. Unlike most of the people there, however, Claire experiences love and loss after the birth of her Product and desires to have him with her always. After Jonas rescues Gabe by taking him away, she spends the next years searching for her baby. Still, while I enjoyed revisiting this story, this is clearly a tacked-on sequel which shows none of the continuity readers would expect if this one had been planned from the beginning. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I’m glad I read it, but I think I’ll now drop these sequels out of my head and leave Jonas and Gabe back on that snowy hilltop with a future full of possibilities.