I think this fourth book in The Giver series is very good, at its strongest in the parts titled Before and Between. I enjoyed the return to The Giver’s community, told through the perspective of Claire as a Birthmother. It is fun to meet Jonas, his father and Gabriel through her eyes.
I think Lowry does a great job building up suspense as Claire discovers her connection to Product #36 and starts to break the community’s rules. I like how Lowry uses the next community as a way for Claire to gain knowledge and strength in order to “climb out” and find Gabriel. Lowry makes an interesting comparison of the two communities, the second one being very rustic and using no technology. Everyone plays a role and makes a contribution in this fisherman’s community, but unlike The Giver’s community, it is free, full of love and loss. The third community, too, is successful and likewise honors freedom.
I was disappointed with the third section, Beyond, and its conclusion because I was expecting a bigger revelation at the end. I wanted to know more about where these communities were and what had happened to The Giver’s community after Jonas left. I thought it was rushed and I was dissatisfied with the way Gabe’s battle with the evil Trademaster was fought. Matty’s previous battle with the Trademaster is not fully explained, making Gabe’s duty to the community unclear.
But despite this disappointment, I think this book is nearly as excellent as The Giver. There are many poignant moments, particularly between Claire and Gabe in the Before section. I think Lowry really captures the horror of the community’s dirty truth at the Nurturing Center when the staff learns Gabe is going to be released. Claire’s relationship with Einar is my favorite and I think her training and climb are very suspenseful.
The story can stand alone, but it’s much better knowing the story of The Giver.
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