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Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction – Dystopian
Title: Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet #2)
Author: Lois Lowry
Length: 241 pages
Publication: September 25th 2000 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.
As she did in THE GIVER, Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, how people could evolve, and what could be considered valuable. Every reader will be taken by Kira’s plight and will long ponder her haunting world and the hope for the future.
‘Gathering Blue’ is written in third person limited with the single character being Kira. Her name has two syllables. Based upon the naming rules of Kira’s society it can be discerned that Kira is old enough to have gone through physical maturity, but not old adult to be considered an adult. In other words, she’s somewhere in her mid to late teens. Even so, she speaks with maturity beyond her years.
She easily understands the fundamentals of the society in which she lives and how she, as a physically crippled human, does not belong. Despite all that and the natural pressures and insecurities of someone her age, her voice is strong. She knows and accepts who she is. This allows for a clear picture of her world and the story that unfolds within it.
Pacing: This novel, while short, is a slow read. It doesn’t contain the high suspense or action-packed scenes common with young adult dystopian. Instead, it relies on the weaving of stories. It focuses on the people within a society and the roles that they play, which allows for a slow build, aided by foreshadowing.
World: The world in ‘Gathering Blue’ is not a typical dystopian with advanced technology or an overbearing, big-brother-style government. Rather it’s set in a village. The people are almost primitive in the tasks they do and the ways they live, and yet they speak as though it is some indiscriminate point in the future. A time when present-day cities and society have fallen. As such, things have reverted to much simpler means with less in-depth intrigue and means by which people can plot against and control each other. The simplistic nature of the culture smooths the way for the story, laying it out plainly.
Character: Kira is a teenager who was born with a twisted leg, crippling her. As such she is considered to be ‘useless’ in her society as she can barely walk, can’t bear children, and is considered undesirable. Even so, the pain she endures makes her strong. It’s this which gives her such a strong voice and pushes her forwards despite the jeers, taunts, and curses tossed in her direction. It’s also through her pain that she understands compassion. The compassion, mixed with her determination to survive, make her a likable character, but sometimes her voice sounded almost timid, making it difficult at best to care what happened to her.
Non-Spoilered Plot: The plot of ‘Gathering Blue’ is about a young girl, Kira, trying to find her place in a world that doesn’t accept her because she’s physically different. Her entire life has been an uphill battle. However, those experiences have made her strong and she relies on that strength when a turn of events leaves in a more difficult position than she’s ever faced. Being different may make her weak in her culture. Yet, what she lacks in physical ability, she makes up for in intellect, awareness, and a strong sense of right and wrong, which proves more powerful than any physical attribute ever could be.
Plot: The overarching plot is about a teenager, singled out for being different, trying to find her place in society. For Kira this is difficult. After all, her leg deformity keeps her from being desirable for mating in addition to being unable to participate in most tasks around the village. Therefore, she has no way to truly contribute to society. The only thing keeping her around is her mother, who dies at the beginning of the book. With her protector gone, the harsh nature of the village people rears its ugly head. The village women try to throw her out.
The only thing that keeps her from being banished to the Field, the place where the dying go to die, is her ability to form pictures from threads unlike anyone else in the village. As such, she takes over her late mother’s job. She is placed in a safe, comfortable room and given the simple task of repairing the robe that the Singer wears during the annual Gathering. (A day where the Singer retells history to the entire village.) Though this task is of the utmost importance in the village and will keep Kira safe, she finds it to be less than desirable.
The young threader is given freedom to come and go as she pleases. She is given all the tools and items she requires for her job and yet she is forced to meticulously repair the robe. The colors and style of threading must be exact. It is tedious work. She isn’t given time to thread what she wants, the pictures her hands can thread without having seen them before, a gift she possesses. Such a life wears on Kira. It eases in a sense of overbearing control that the council and the society still has on her despite her esteemed role in the village.
It’s this sense of foreboding that lingers with Kira. She starts to question the ways of the village: the sudden death of her thread-dying mentor(who was found at her hut far from the village where no one would know she was dead since no one visits her), the way her mother caught sickness while no one else did(even though sickness almost always takes many people), the coincidental deaths of parents in the village so that children with ‘gifts’ like hers can be taken away(the wood carver’s parents died when he was young and the future singer’s parents just happened to die after her gift of singing was discovered), the locking up of said children(as if they were prisoners rather than esteemed members of society). To add to her suspicions of the village council her father, supposedly many years dead, returns to her village.
He explains the lies of the village, the jealousies, and the measures many will take to get what they want. A plot ensued. It was meant to result in his death, but he was saved from the Field by people who, too, had been shunned and left for dead. They live in a village some ways away, a village where compassion roams free. It’s a place where Kira, with her deformed leg, would be welcomed and cared for and she eagerly wishes to go. However, she doesn’t.
While tending the plant(a plant brought to her by her father from his distant village) that will give her the color for blue dye(a color she’s yearned for more than anything in the world), she realizes that she can’t go. Knowing of the plots and control the council has over the people, she realizes that she must stay to form a new future. She must the small shoot that prevails through the hard times to bring about new life and a new, more compassionate, culture in her village. That is where the story ends. Kira wishes her father good-bye with a single promise that one day, in a brighter future, their villages will meet and they will be together again. It ends on a note of hope. Even with the positive ending, the slow build of this book left me searching for more suspense, more depth, and for that reason I leave this book, Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, with a rating of three stars.