Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review: The Messenger

Last month, I re-read The Messenger by Lois Lowry.  This is the third book in her Giver sequence—until her recent publication of Son, it functioned as the conclusion of the cycle.  Reading Son led me into a cycle of my own—it inspired me to go back and re-read the other three books so that I could appreciate it more fully, and reading the other three books then made me go back and read Son (again) to make sure I had appreciated all its nuances.  Having now completed all of that reading, I can honestly say that I am wowed by Lois Lowry.  I love all the subtle ways in which she intertwines these stories, written over the course of two decades, and I love how she creates a distinct feeling of hope and joy for humanity in the midst of THE original YA dystopian society.

In The Messenger, the main character is Matty.  This is the same spunky young rag-tag adventurer who we met as “the fiercest of the fierce” in Gathering Blue, where he was a lovable but peripheral character to Kira’s story.  In The Messenger, Matty is now a young adult, dreaming of assuming his true role in the Village (and in life).  Here, it’s Kira who’s the peripheral character (though still important to the story).  Jonas from The Giver also reappears, now the Leader of Village.  Even Gabe (from The Giver) gets a passing reference, though his own story doesn’t emerge until Son.

 Matty lives with Seer, a wise old blind man (who also happens to be Kira’s father) in Village, a once-idyllic settlement that has traditionally accepted all strangers who have been rejected by other societies.  But a dark force is working on Village.  Its people are trading away the best parts of themselves in exchange for half-formed dreams or creature comforts.  The Forest surrounding the Village becomes physically darker and more dangerous, reflecting the souls of the townspeople.

 Matty serves as Villager’s Messenger, the only one who dares to venture to outlying communities.  And like Jonas and Kira, Matty has a Gift.  He has healing within his hands.  And though he is young and has not yet received his True Name, Matty finds himself called upon to restore all that is good in his world.

 The Messenger is (unfortunately) not as multi-layered as The Giver and (thankfully) not as dark as Gathering Blue.  It provides a fascinating portrait of what people think they really want in life—and what they are willing to sacrifice to get it.  Its story is only further enriched by Son, in which Gabe takes up the mantle that Matty wields in this book.  All great reads for middle school students on up through adults.

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