I am a sucker for a series. I love Harry Potter, and I used to love The Baby-sitters Club, and I’m really only still watching Glee because I have a great gift for the virtue of hope and I hope it will eventually be good again. Somewhere deep down, though, my belief in eternity makes me want to follow a story until the end. I want to know what happens next, and if I’m dissatisfied, I might make up my own ending, or even a middle. (I occasionally still write fanfiction. You can laugh.) My faith in things that are carry on and my love of The Giver made me especially excited to find out that the story wasn’t even over in Gathering Blue. Lois Lowry’s world-building continues in another companion novel, Messenger.
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read The Giver and Gathering Blue, this review will spoil both of their endings for you. They’re great books that I recommend you read regardless of your age, but if you haven’t, at least go read my reviews here at ACNM [The Giver, Gathering Blue].
Messenger is set in a third town in Lowry’s universe, this one simply named Village. Matty from Gathering Blue has made a home in Village with Kira’s father, who is blind. Village is a refuge: people who are unloved, unwanted, or unwelcome in their native places journey through a thick forest to Village, where the previous refugees and native children greet them with kindness and care. As the book begins, though, the open atmosphere of Village has been changing. The young and insightful Leader (who is almost certainly a grown-up Jonas from The Giver) will allow the people to vote to close the borders to outsiders permanently, but he doesn’t like it. As the town’s messenger, Matty, who has discovered a curious new ability, must journey through the living and hostile forest one last time to spread the news of the closure and to bring Kira to Village while he still can. This final journey shows what Matty is really made of.
I read my fair share of fantasy and dystopias, so I’m used to authors attempting to describe a mysterious and foreboding future while using ordinary words. Some succeed; some fail. Lowry succeeds greatly. She has a way of writing that is almost lyrical but still down-to-earth enough for middle-grade readers. She can describe her own universe without dumping information on the reader (God bless J.K. Rowling, but she did that more than once) or being too mysterious (Leader doesn’t have to be Jonas, but I think he is). I can’t quite put my finger on Lowry’s style, but I like it.
Even more than Lowry’s style, though, I love the message of her books. The Giver taught a lot about free will, conformity, life, and the power of knowledge. Gathering Blue told us more about life, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the horrors of using people. Messenger speaks to the lure of evil and the proper response to evil (love). It takes amazing talent to conquer issues like these on a youth-friendly level! They are contemporary and timeless, and I remember the great discussions we had when I first read The Giver, for school. I was delighted and satisfied with Messenger…but I’m still eager to read the conclusion, Son.
Up next: Orthodoxy, the witty and weighty spiritual autobiography of G.K. Chesterton