Son by Lois Lowry

Son by Lois Lowry

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read The Giver and quite liked it. It seemed more nuanced than a lot of YA stuff. I like nuance.

When I read Gathering Blue and Messenger—both of which were less nuanced and had characters with less depth than those in The Giver—my interest flagged. But optimist that I am, I picked up Son both for closure and because I thought a great ending might redeem the whole series.

I was disappointed.

Son is not an awful book; it just irritated me. First there was the training montage during which I had the Rocky theme song running through my head on repeat.

The payoff for that was the interminable climb up the cliff (which was nearly as interminable as the Rocky theme song itself).

Then there were little inconsistencies, like Claire realizing that she “loved” Gabe even though in The Giver, it wasn’t until Jonas received it from the Giver in the form of a memory that he—and presumably any member of the community—had any concept of love, much less knowledge of the word. So how did Claire know what she was feeling was “love”?

It would have made sense if this scene had happened after Jonas had left the community and the memories had been released, but this was before his escape. Maybe Lowry’s point is that people in the community didn’t really need the memories to feel the feelings, but then, why did it take so long for anyone to have any and do anything about it? And really, based on the rest of the book and the way the messages are hammered home, if that had been her intention, I’m sure I would know it and not just be speculating about it.

Then when Claire and Jonas meet up later, Jonas asks about when Claire stopped taking the pills, but earlier in the book, there was this big thing about how Claire never took the pills. She hadn’t started before she went off to be a Birthmother and somehow she’d never been given pills after she gave birth.

I find this kind of inconsistency irritating. If an author (and/or her editor) isn’t going to put the time and effort into internal consistency, why should I give my time and effort to read the book? But of course I did read the book, and since I can’t get that bit of my rapidly fading youth back, I feel like I just got a bum deal from Trademaster.

And speaking of Trademaster, I don’t resonate with that portrayal of evil.

A few months ago, I listened to my daughter explain heat to her little brother. “You see, Buddy,” she explained, “there’s no such thing as cold, just an absence of heat.”

That’s how I feel about good and evil: There’s no such thing as “evil,” only an absence of Good. On a New England day in February sometimes the cold seems so intense that it seems to have a life of its own, but it’s still just an absence of heat. Sometimes evil, too, seems so strong that it seems like it must be a force in its own right, but just like with the winter cold, it’s simply the absence of Good (or Love, if you prefer). Portraying evil as a force in itself gives evil way too much power.

I’m not saying that I can only like a book if I agree with all of its ideas, but I do think the bit with Trademaster and Gabe would have been stronger if Lowry hadn’t tried to spoon-feed the reader a particular philosophy but instead left it more open to interpretation, as she did with the ending of The Giver. This, however, echoes my constant complaint about YA fiction: It doesn’t make the reader work. It’s one step away from television. What’s the point?

My daughter seems to have lost interest in the series since reading Gathering Blue, and I’m not going to encourage her to keep going. I’m really bad about quitting books that aren’t doing it for me; it’s not too early for her to learn the importance of knowing when to cut your literary losses.

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