I grew up loving Lois Lowry and her novels. The Giver was a distinct favorite from my formative years for good reason, as it introduced to me the diverse, expansive world of dystopian literature. Son (2012) proved to be a lovely end to a phenomenal Young Adult series that I will treasure forever.
Lois Lowry’s writing will always have a special place in my heart. Sometimes I’ll go back and read a childhood favorite and I am left with a dissatisfied feeling.
“But I used to love this! What changed?”
Then I realize that I changed, not the book. I grew up. Things that were seemingly profound at the age of sixteen no longer seem so consequential. This was not the case with Son. I found Lowry’s writing just as engaging as it was when I was ten or eleven years old and I sped through this book in several hours. If you have already read The Giver, I would recommend the rest of the series to you, Gathering Blue (2000) and The Messenger (2004). Overall, I would rate Son a 4/5, though I am not a big stickler with numerical ratings.
Here’s a ***SPOILER ALERT*** though I do not give away anything major.
Lowry was again able to approach serious, adult topics in a way that is tangible to young adults, yet without pretense. As an adult now, reading the final book in the quartet was interesting. I am more analytical now, and wanted to tie in all the new details I was absorbing to its predecessors. Son has several main characters, but the central character to this story arc is Claire, who is the birthmother of Gabriel from The Giver. In her society, the same one that Jonas came from, people do not raise their own children. Instead, everyone is assigned roles, and only women assigned the title of “birthmother” are responsible for producing children. The children are then raised by the government, and then assigned to family units.
When it comes to a successful dystopian novel, I feel like it is incredibly important to make consistent allusions to the real world, and Lowry was able to do just that. Lowry approached topics that hit a little too close to home; the novel’s landscape almost seems to mirror our modern society, and in turn is able to allow the reader to fully enter the world she had created in these four books. For example, in “Between”, the second part of the novel, Lowry dove headfirst into themes of patriarchy and sexism, when Claire discovers that in this new village she was living in, women who had gave birth out of wedlock were seen as “stained” or dirty. This in-between village had its faults, as mentioned, but somehow to me it still seemed better than a world void of passion or love like the one both Jonas and Claire had escaped. These kind of potentially messy topics are the ones that keep Lowry’s young adult readers pining for more time and time again. Teens do not want to shy away from these subjects, and Lowry gave them what they crave. She proposed a mystic and fantastical universe in a way that was still relatable to a reality-based reader.
Though the conclusion was uplifting, Lowry did not package an overly manufactured happy-go-lucky ending, which I greatly appreciated. A reoccurring theme over the course of the quartet was the constant battle between good and evil. Even the village touted as more accepting and morally good had its own ebbs and flows through light and darkness. The ending of Son pointed to light (“He thought he heard her say, ‘I see the sun.'”), but the reader is left with a cautionary message: we must be mindful of the battle between good and evil lest we fall back into darkness.