REVIEW: GATHERING BLUE (THE GIVER QUARTET #2)

There be no monsters...


After rereading THE GIVER last month and loving it just as much as when I was in school, I was a little nervous to see how GATHERING BLUE would measure up. While the second book in THE GIVER QUARTET was not at all what I expected, it ended up being another stellar read.
 
HOW I RATED IT 
5/5 GATHERING BLUE surprised me in a lot of ways while also having some nice thematic ties to the first book in the series. It certainly did not tell the story I thought it would, but I deeply enjoyed it all the same.

CHARACTERS
Jonas's story does not continue in GATHERING BLUE. Instead, we follow a young girl named Kira. Unlike the blissful suburbia that Jonas grew up in, Kira is raised in a much harsher and more primitive society, though there is still a rather strict order which all of the citizens subscribe to. Kira is also in a rather vulnerable and isolating situation since she is somewhat crippled by a disfigurement in her leg that she was born with. In a society that does not tolerate such things, Kira finds herself in a rather dire situation after her mother passes and is no longer there to protect her. In a somewhat typical fashion, everything changes for her when a life-altering opportunity arises and she becomes a figure of some importance within her village. While Kira's arc is similar to Jonas's in some ways (although Lowry makes these parallels no less suspenseful than before), her story is also quite different due to how many amazing and loveable side characters there are. There's the filthy and rascally, Matt (who is always followed by his trusty dog, Branchie), Thomas, who is like Kira in that he has a somewhat mystical artistic ability, Annabella, the old village recluse with a knack for dyes, and the mysterious Jamison whose motives are often obscure. There are a couple of other characters of note who appear later in the story and they were also fantastic. The liveliness of this cast is something that really helps shake things up this time around and I very much hope that we get to see these characters again in the next book.   

PLOT/TONE
Like I mentioned, the plot of this narrative definitely follows a very similar trajectory to that of THE GIVER. The early chapters focus on the rules of this corner of the world, while the middle section really builds out our characters, and the final act comes with some startling revelations as well as a call to action for Kira. Unlike the first book, GATHERING BLUE wastes no time in showing how messed up this society is. That said, there are clues left along the way that things may be even darker than they initially appear and it was again, a delight to slowly guess at what exactly was really going on. I also found it really enjoyable to follow Kira along her journey of learning dyes and repairing the famed singer's robe. Without spoiling anything, I liked that the ending surprised me in a way and left me wondering if/how this story will continue in the next book. 

SETTING/WORLD
Gone is the well-mannered savagery of "The Community." We are now exposed to a much more primitive culture where the weak or wounded are forced out and left for dead quite openly. People have to scavenge and sometimes steal for food, while a select few live in relative luxury within the ruins of an old church (at least that is what the building sounded like from how Lowry describes it).This part of the world is also a lot more magical in some ways. The more mystical elements were something that I wasn't expecting even though the powers of the Giver/Receiver of Memory were somewhat magical in nature. In addition to the more fantastical aspects, there is also a much stronger sense of this being a post-apocalyptic world, which I kind of liked. It wasn't clear to me when exactly the story is set in relation to the events of THE GIVER though, so I am kind of hoping that will be touched upon later in the series to help it all connect since this setting feels quite separate from what was previously established.  

THE HARDCOVER (AND BOX SET)
Just about all of my statements about the first book remain true here so I will repeat what I said in that review:
"The Hardcover Box set for this series is nicely constructed and have beautiful, matching dust jackets. While these copies are definitely on the more premium side, not all of the material choices are amazing. The jackets aren't made of particularly great material even though the titles do have some nice embossing. Because of this, I read these with the jackets off and found that there is nothing special about the naked hardbacks. The fonts and formatting make for a pretty and easy reading experience. One last note on this is that the slip case for this collection has warped slightly over time and I may discard it at some point."

CONCLUSION
GATHERING BLUE pleasantly surprised me in many ways. It is a very interesting companion novel to THE GIVER that feels quite separate, but I am very curious to see how these different characters and parts of the world might connect later in the series. 

(+) Beautiful Hardcover Edition
(+) Kira serves as another compelling and loveable protagonist
(+) An iconic and entertaining cast of side characters 
(+) Awesome parallels and interesting differences to THE GIVER
(+) Lots of awesome twists toward the story's end (even though some are expected)
(-) The writing does skew younger (not a huge con, but might turn off some adult readers)

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