Thursday, January 3, 2013

Son - Lois Lowry

Title: Son (Conclusion to The Giver)
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 393 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction
Started: December 31, 2012
Finished: January 2, 2013

From the inside cover:

"They called her Water Claire."

When the young girl washed up on their shore, no one knew she had been a Vessel. That she had carried a Product. That it had been carved from her belly. Stolen.

Claire had had a son. She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. When he was taken from their community, she knew she had to follow.

And so her journey began.

But here in this wind-battered village, Claire is welcomed as one of their own. In the security of her new home, she is free and loved. She grows stronger.

As tempted as she is by the warmth of more human kindness than she has ever known, she cannot stay. Her son is out there; a young boy by now.

Claire will stop at nothing to find her child...even if it means trading her own life.

With Son, the two-time Newbery Medal-winning Lois Lowry has spun another mesmerizing tale in this thrilling and long-awaited conclusion to The Giver.

I never had to read The Giver in school, I read it as an adult, but several schools I've taught in do have it as required reading for grades 7 or 8. With that in mind, I loved The Giver and Lowry's writing in general, and was intrigued by this installment. Even though I haven't read the sequels, Gathering Blue and The Messenger, I decided to give this a go anyway. Thankfully, Son can stand on its own without reading any of the previous books, but I think reading them definitely helps.

The book is divided into three parts, the first takes place in the same community that serves as the setting for The Giver, and opens with 14-year-old Claire giving birth to her first (and only) Product as a Vessel/Birthmother. After a difficult labour and eventual c-section, Claire is decertified and reassigned to work in the fish hatchery. Since Claire wasn't given the feeling-killing pills to take after the birth (Birthmothers don't take them during pregnancy), Claire begins to yearn for her son and seeks him out by volunteering in the childcare centre where number 36 is being kept. After being involved in her child's life for almost two years, Claire hears that Jonas escaped with Gabe to save his life, and she goes after them.

Part two takes place in a new, slightly primitive yet more humane village surrounded by the water and mountains where Claire washes up on after escaping. Since she doesn't remember much other than her name, she stays in the village until attending a birth opens up memories of her son, driving her to find a way out despite the harsh landscape.

Part three follows Claire's journey from the village to the community described in The Messenger after an encounter with the Trademaster. After sacrificing nearly everything to find Gabe again, Claire doesn't have much time left to reveal herself to the son that longs to know if he ever had someone that mothered him.

I liked this book overall, I appreciated the first part essentially being another perspective to events in The Giver, and showing how truly emotionally absent the community was. I thought the portrayal of a mother's love for her child was very true to life and poignant. I loved Einar and his relationship with Claire and how he was willing to train her even though he knew she would leave, because he loved her enough to know she needed to find her son.

The third part felt a little rushed to me, the Trademaster seemed to pop out of nowhere and Gabe's fight with him and the resolution seemed slightly off. I was also disappointed with Jonas' relationship with Gabe, I figured after sacrificing everything to save the kid, Jonas would maintain a brother-type relationship at least. I can understand having Gabe live elsewhere because Jonas wasn't a fit caregiver, but the contact they have seems wanting.

A wonderful conclusion to The Giver, but Son can also stand on its own without needing to read the other books.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love cover redesigns, and these books benefitted greatly from them. The new slew of covers for all four books have the same elements (face against the trees with a light solid colour background), and the look very nice.

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