Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Giver Quartet Omnibus by Lois Lowry—Sleek, portable new collection

The Giver Quartet 20th Anniversary boxed set came out in November of 2013, giving readers a chance to have a collection of the best-selling series in four, separate hardcover books. Today, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt releases for the first time the Omnibus, a single volume of all four novels: The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

While readers may appreciate having separate, lighter, copies of each novel, the Omnibus provides a surprisingly light collection of the unabridged editions. The cover is simple, yet beautiful, and would look great on anyone’s bookshelf. The font size is appropriate for any young adult or adult reader, and you can’t beat $29.99 for all four books.

In case you need a refresher, here are some brief summaries/criticicm of each book in the series. 

The Giver
This is the first book in the quartet, which debuted in 1993, and is soon to be a major film adaptation. Eleven year old Jonas lives in a seemingly utopian society where everyone is the same, and there are no emotions, no fear or love, and each citizen is designated a position within the society. Jonas receives the position of “Receiver of Memory” in which he must store the memories of the time before the new regulations. To do this, he must interact with “the Giver” who passes along knowledge as well as the memories, forcing Jonas to decide if the adage “ignorance is bliss” is actually true here. Equally noted for its praise and criticism, Lowry begins her series with a look into the benefits, or the dangers, of a utopian society. Today, the beloved book is considered a classic in many classrooms and pairs well the dystopian YA explosion seen in the last ten years.

Gathering Blue
The second book in the quartet, released in 2000, follows a female protagonist, Kira, who is disabled as a result of a badly deformed leg. She lives in a society where the weak do not live, and so she must find a way to survive. Fortunately, Kira is gifted at sewing, inheriting this ability from her mother, and the Council decides to keep her and use her gifts. As she begins her new position, Kira must learn how to dye thread from an old woman, except she tells Kira that they cannot make blue from any plant in the village. There are also crying noises beneath her room from a young girl designated to be the “Singer” one day. Kira is surrounded by mystery, and she doesn’t understand her place in it all. There is no real connection from this book to The Giver, other than the main theme of a utopian/dystopian society and the teenagers who are stuck in its ignorance and its totalitarian reign. Female readers will appreciate a different point of view and the struggles Kira experiences both physically and emotionally.

The third book in the quartet, released in 2004, provides the link between the first two books with returning characters. Matty (who returns from Gathering Blue) lives in a place called Village, and he has been given the position of the message-bearer who must enter the Forest. While most people avoid Forest, Matty learns his way in and out with stealth. Village is much different than Jonas and Kira’s societies as most of its inhabitants are suffering from a disability and are willing to help one another. Eventually, it becomes too good to be true, and after arguments at the Trade Mart, Village decides not to allow anyone else to enter. The Seer of Village sends Matty on a trip through Forest in order to bring back his daughter Kira (also from Gathering Blue). Forest attacks Matty and Kira, and Leader (Jonas) enters to try and save them, only to be caught. Matty must use his healing ability to save them all. Readers will appreciate the connections between the first two books, and the fates of the characters, most importantly Jonas.

The fourth and final book of the quartet was released in 2012 and follows fourteen year old Claire who is designated as the Birthmother. At the opening of the novel, Claire is pregnant with her first child, and following complications, she is told to work at the Fish Hatchery. Still emotionally attached to her baby (she doesn’t take the required pills to suppress emotions), Claire watches him grow, and after being told he will be killed, Jonas swoops in and saves baby Gabe. Claire, who follows them and is later shipwrecked, wakes up to amnesia in a nearby village. Claire is saved by a woman named Alys who takes care of her until her memory returns. She leaves the village to find Gabe, and ends up trading her youth to the Trademaster for the location of her son. Jonas and Kira, now married, live in the same community as Gabe, and when Claire reveals herself to her son, Gabe kills the Trademaster, and Claire’s youth is restored. As the final book in the series, Lowry collects her all of her characters and puts them in seemingly impossible situations, proving that love is more powerful than power and fear.

**FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any money for this review. **

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