Son for a long time. The Giver is one of those book that holds a special, partly sentimental, place in my heart. I was just the right age for it when I first read it - right around Jonas' age - and it was a revelation for me. It was the first dystopia I ever read. I was entranced. I still am. As an adult, I can see the plot holes, and if I had not read it first as a child, I most likely would not be as forgiving of its faults. But that doesn't matter. This is a book that speaks to kids first and foremost. Each time I pick it up and dive in, I remember what it was like to be 12 years old and read that book for the very first time. It's something akin to a feeling of transcendence.
Reading sequels to books like that as an adult can be challenging. I remember finding Gathering Blue as a young teenager and loving the discovery I made, all on my own, that it was connected loosely to The Giver. I felt that sense of wonder again, though not as deeply. As an older teen, soon after graduation from high school, I picked up Messenger, knowing it was the third in that set of books. Alas, I was disappointed with it. I wonder if I had grown too old for this very particular kind of story, or if the book simply wasn't as strong. Possibly both.
All that long introduction is to say that I'm of two minds about Son. While reading it, I had flashes of those transcendent moments I felt as a child, but I also felt disappointment and, at times, tedium.
It's divided into three sections: Before, Between, and Beyond. The first part focuses on Claire, a child who has been assigned to be a birth mother in the same community Jonas lived in. This is the section most similar to The Giver, and it is by far the strongest. The second part follows Claire to another place reminiscent of Kira's community in Gathering Blue. The third and final part follows her to the setting of Messenger. As the final volume in the series, Son's structure functions as a very literal way of tying everything together. Unfortunately, drawing such close parallels between Claire's story and Kira's in the second part and Matty's in the third part also subjects it to the same criticisms of those stories. This is especially true for the last third, which suffers from multiple weaknesses I also felt were present in Messenger. If anything, the third part actually builds upon those weaknesses, diving too far headlong into strictly metaphorical territory and sacrificing a logical plot with concrete explanations.
I've gotten a lot of feedback about Son from adults, but not much from kids. The book isn't wildly popular in my library, though it's not a shelf-sitter either. I wonder how kids who have read the other books feel about it. If you've gotten feedback from kids, I'd love to read about it in the comments.
Like in all the previous books, the language is beautiful and strange at at the same time. It's the type of writing that is simply stated but resonates more strongly because of its simplicity. I expect it is divisive among adult readers who had differing interpretations of the ambiguous ending of The Giver. I expect it is also divisive simply because it is not The Giver, and I'm not sure anything can be. It's still lovely and different and certainly worthy of acclaim. It's imperfectly done, but we should all be glad it exists.
Finished copy borrowed from the library.