Messenger, by Lois Lowry

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Publication date – January 24, 2006

Summary: For the past six years, Matty has lived in Village and flourished under the guidance of Seer, a blind man known for his special sight. Once, Village was a place that welcomed newcomers and offered hope and homes to people fleeing poverty and cruelty. But something sinister has seeped into Village, and the people have voted to close it to outsiders. All along, Matty has been invaluable as a messenger between Village and other communities. He hopes someday to earn the name of Messenger. Now he must make one last journey through the treacherous Forest to spread the message of Village’s closing and convince Kira, Seer’s daughter, to return with him. Matty’s only weapon against the increasingly dangerous surroundings is a secret power he unexpectedly discovers within himself. He wants to heal the people who have nourished his body and spirit and is willing to offer the greatest gift and pay the ultimate price.

Thoughts: While, as the others, this book tackled some interesting themes that deserve their time in the spotlight, I confess myself a little bit disappointed by just how much was left unsaid in Messenger. In The Giver and Gathering Blue there were undoubtedly some mysterious pieces that were left unexplained, but at least they were unexplained for a good reason. In The Giver, no explanation is given as to how a Receiver or Giver and transfer memories, but then it’s made pretty obvious that the characters don’t entirely know either. It just is. In Gathering Blue, Kira and Thomas don’t quite understand how it is that they things they make can give them messages of things happening elsewhere, but they neither take it for granted nor try to come up with some explanation. It is what it is.

But in Messenger, it seemed like some potentially huge things were there only to drive the plot to a certain point, and that point had nothing to do with the issue. I’m talking about Trade Mart, mostly. People make trades for things there. A new thing for an old thing. Something they don’t want for something they do want. But at some point, it goes beyond material objects and people start trading away pieces of themselves in order to improve their physical appearance, for example. How? It’s most certainly a deal-with-the-devil thing, but while the negative changes occur in people because they traded away their souls for material possessions or a better physique to impress the opposite sex, I couldn’t help but wonder how it was all happening, or how it started to happen. Was it the man running Trade Mart exercising a power of his own? Was it entirely metaphorical? So much more could have been done with this, but instead of was just used as a way to get people to isolate and close off Village so that Matty could have a reason to go into Forest.

And then there are the parts that get amplified, once again seemingly so that the plot could advance toward a specific point.

We do, happily, get to find out that Jonas survived and that the ending of The Giver was not his dying hallucination, which now nicely ties all three of the books together. But his ability to “see beyond” has changed. It was kind of assumed in The Giver that it meant his growing ability to see colour, to perceive how things should have been. It tied in well with the Giver’s ability to “hear beyond”, which was him hearing music. But in Messenger, Jonas’s ability has turned into the power to see across long distances. It serves its purpose, but that’s my whole point. It serves its purpose, and much like the purpose of Trade Mart seemed to be to place Matty outside Village, the change in Jonas’s ability seemed to be to put him in the right place to convince Matty to sacrifice himself to heal the world.

Moving, certainly, and Matty’s sacrifice was definitely a touching scene that did bring tears to my eyes, but it seemed to be so pre-determined that it was hard to look back on anything before the ending and feel the same anxiety about what was going to happen.

I praise this book for the same reasons that I praised the others, for the author having the guts to assume that kids can handle more than bland notions about how the world really works beyond Saturday morning TV shows. But so much more could have been done with this that it’s hard to close it without feeling a bit let down, like I’ve only read part of the story. It’s a shame that what started out with a bang ended with a fizzle. Still a touching fizzle, but it didn’t have the same drive behind it that the previous books did.

I do recommend reading this one, and I did enjoy it and won’t say otherwise. Especially if you enjoyed the other two books in the series, you don’t want to miss finding out all the little ways that they ultimately tie together. But if you liked the other two for the same reasons that I did, you may find yourself as disappointed as I am by this last novel in the trilogy.

2 comments on “Messenger, by Lois Lowry

  1. I read Giver last year and I liked it but it wasn't my fave dystopian by any means. I really don't plan to read the other books so I am thrilled to find out that Jonas survived!!

  2. Pingback: Son, by Lois Lowry | Bibliotropic

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