Monday, October 12, 2015

Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry

   2000; 215 pages.  Book 2 of the “Giver Quartet” series.  Full title : “Gathering Blue; A Companion to The Giver”.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Dystopian Fiction; YA.  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    It’s been a rough life so far for little Kira.  First and worst, she was born with a crippled leg, and any deformity is looked upon as a just cause to be banished from the village by its citizens.  Then shortly after she was born, her father was killed while hunting.  Only the stubbornness of Kira’s mother prevented the villagers from sending Kira to a certain death in “the field” beyond the village.

    But now her mother is dead, cut down by a sudden sickness, and their hut has been burned to the ground to prevent the disease from spreading.  No one is going to adopt a crippled girl, and no one is going to help her rebuild her home.

    To boot, several of the neighboring women are greedily eyeing Kira’s small plot of land already, and have brought about legal proceedings to have her banished.  How can a little girl with only one good leg justify her continued living in the village?

What’s To Like...
    Gathering Blue is Lois Lowry’s follow-up to her incredibly-popular, multi-award-winning book, The Giver.  It has the same general structure – a coming-of-age child is found to be gifted, gets put into an important village position, and gains “special knowledge” that reveals that things in the village are not as utopian as its inhabitants think.  The overall themes are the same; but the details in the two stories differ considerably, with GB having a noticeably darker tone to it.

    This is not a sequel.  Although I got the impression that it’s set in the same general location, it’s a different village, existing under different conditions.  These villagers see colors normally, and the longer you live, the more syllables you get added to your name.  Four-syllable people are given great respect.

    The characters are engaging and easy to keep track of, which is the norm for a YA book.  I especially liked Matt and Branch.  The village was developed more fully here than in The Giver.  There is also a mild strain of humor here that I don’t recall being in The Giver.  Kira’s struggles to understand the bathroom facilities made me chuckle.

    The ending was not what I expected, which is a plus.  But again, like The Giver, a lot of threads remain unresolved, which is a minus.  Being a YA novel, there is nothing R-rated to be found.

Kindle Details...
    Gathering Blue sells for $7.99 at Amazon, which is also true of the other two “follow-up” books in the series.  Book 1, The Giver, sells for $6.99, which is an excellent way to be introduced to this series.   

    She stood in the open doorway and watched them retreat down the long corridor, the man leading the way, Matt, walking jauntily just behind him, and the dog at Matt’s heels.  The boy looked back at her, waved slightly, and grinned with a questioning look.  His face, smeared with sticky candy, was alight with excitement.  She knew that within minutes he would be telling his mates that he’d barely escaped being washed.  His dog too, and all the fleas; a close call.  (loc. 619)

    “Matt said she was already a singer.”
    Kira, thinking, smoothed the folds of her skirt.  “so each of us,” she said slowly, “was already a – I don’t know what to call it.”
    “Artist?” Thomas suggested.  “That’s a word.  I’ve never heard anyone say it, but I’ve read it in some of the books.  It means, well, someone who is able to make something beautiful.  Would that be the word?”
    “Yes, I guess it would.  The tyke makes her singing, and it is beautiful.”
    “When she isn’t crying,” Thomas pointed out.  (loc. 1379)

 “Night comes, and colors fade away; sky fades, for blue can never stay…”  (loc. 1972)
     The biggest problem with Gathering Blue is that it doesn’t advance the thoroughly captivating plotline that was left dangling at the end of The Giver, as Jonas sledded down the hill to the new village.  The details may be different here, but underneath it’s just a repeat of the storyline from the first book.

    This isn’t helped by the book’s POV.  Although written in the Third Person, the events are limited to what Kira sees, hears, and experiences.  Jonas had The Giver in the first book to show him the broader picture; Kira has no such resource.  Exciting things do happen in Kira’s story, but they’re offstage, and we (and Kira) only learn of them secondhand and after the fact.

    In fairness, Lois Lowry is upfront about this; she calls this book “A Companion to The Giver”.  But readers mesmerized by The Giver will be looking for a sequel, not a rehash of something they’ve already read.  It’s no surprise, then, that Gathering Blue made a much smaller splash in the literary world than The Giver.  What is surprising is that there was a 7-year gap between the two books.

    7 Stars.  I read Gathering Blue to commemorate the 2015 Banned Books Week (28 September through 05 October), even though it’s The Giver that gets repeatedly challenged by self-proclaimed censors.  Add 1 Star if you haven’t read The Giver yet; Gathering Blue will feel a lot fresher in that case.

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