Son was the longest of the books in The Giver Quartet, and by far the best of the series, in my opinion. It ties all of the prior books together and wraps things up pretty well, though there is still room for more sequels, though I have no idea whether or not Lowry intends to continue writing dystopian fiction. Of course, dystopian fiction writing is kind of a can’t lose profession these days, so I suspect she might continue telling the stories of this world for the rest of her life.
Anyway, the protagonist of Son is Claire, and she starts her life in the same community where Jonas lived initially in The Giver. At her Twelve year ceremony she is chosen to be a Birthmother, which is looked down upon in general as a profession girls are chosen to be when they aren’t good at anything else. In Claire’s community the Birthmothers have the babies and they’re assigned to married couples to raise after they go through an application process. Birthmothers are usually bred three or so times and then once they’ve fulfilled their duties they are reassigned to another profession. Claire is only fourteen when she is bred (I’m saying bred because she’s basically a broodmare or a first-calf heifer with more advanced nutrition), and there are complications with the delivery and she is left sterile, so she is reassigned to working at the fish hatchery. She becomes obsessed with meeting her child, and eventually she makes her way into the place where “newchildren” are cared for until it’s time to go to their families when they’re about a year old, give or take. The baby ends up being Gabriel, the baby who Jonas runs off with at the end of The Giver. After Jonas leaves with Gabriel, Claire spends the rest of the book trying to find her son. She leaves the community on a ship, loses her memory in a shipwreck, washes up at another community at the base of a cliff by the ocean, and spends years there, regaining her memories and then training to climb the cliff to get out to track down Gabe. She falls in love, but leaves this man behind to find Gabe. At the top of the cliff, she meets Trade Master (remember him?), and he trades her youth for the location of her son.
In the meantime, we get to spend time with Jonas, his wife Kira, and Gabe, who is a teenager at this point, and living in a well-appointed orphanage in the community where he and Jonas ended up at the end of The Giver. Everything seems just lovely there these days, which is nice to see. There’s a final showdown between Gabe and the Trade Master, and I won’t bother telling you who wins, because this is young adult fiction. The good guys almost always win in young adult fiction.
This book, like all the others, is plot-driven, and gives itself to a lot of plot summary, which I find really tedious to write, and I suspect it’s equally tedious to read, though maybe not. I found Claire’s story the most compelling of all of the stories that are told in this series, I think because it’s much more well-developed and multi-layered than the stories of the others. Claire actually grows up and changes in the course of the novel, and goes through adult things—she falls in love and loses her person, she loses her son (but finds him again), she works really, really hard to achieve something that many find impossible (scaling that cliff). It’s not like with Kira, using her gift for weaving or Matty using his healing gift. Claire doesn’t have any magical gifts, she’s just a girl who becomes a woman and works hard to get what she wants. I can respect that. I still liked all of the others, and I liked Gabe, but they were less real to me than Claire.
Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick series of books. I feel like it was missing something, possibly a level of depth that I expect after years of reading adult books, but it was fine, really. Missing that “level of depth” made it possible for me to read three books in a week, and there are advantages to making rapid progress through large numbers of books, especially when one is in the middle of a post-a-day challenge that your co-blogger wants to keep up for as long as we can manage it. I think most people would enjoy The Giver Quartet, though it will probably be a bit simple for some. I’m going to keep going with the young adult fiction for a little bit, because I want to finish off the Miss Peregrine’s series, which is more than a little bit darker and has a few more levels of depth to it than even Son. That being said, I’ve been having a bit more trouble getting into it… So simple fiction does have its place.