Son by Lois Lowry – A Book Review

I read The Giver in high school and adored it.  I loved its abstract nature while still rooting itself mostly in reality.  I recently watched the film adaptation, and doing so inspired me to revisit the book.  Because three companion pieces came out between the time I read the original work and the movie, I felt compelled to read the entire quartet.

Gathering Blue and The Messenger proved to be a rather large departure from The Giver, happening in the same “universe” but still only loosely related.  Both of those books leaned far more into the realm of fantasy than science fiction, and I frankly had trouble connecting to the ambiguous morality tale they assumed.

Son, however, offered the best of both worlds.  It begins in The Giver’s community, but it ends in the village of the other two books.  As most will agree, Son is a direct companion piece to The Giver as it initially occurs parallel to Jonas’ story.  It follows Claire’s story, a birth-mother who doesn’t last long at her assignment.  She yearns to be with her only child, which is a rarity in the community, and takes drastic action to do so.  However, she’s beaten to the punch by Jonas, and it becomes fairly obvious rather quickly that Claire is Gabe’s mother.  It seems Gabe was destined to live as it is revealed he had two protectors all along.

Once Gabe is taken, Claire decides to do anything to be with her son.  Through a series of hardships and obstacles, and though it takes years, she eventually makes her way to The Messenger’s village where Gabe is now a hearty young man.  Claire, unfortunately, is now unrecognizable thanks to a vicious evil, an evil which Jonas declares Gabe must eradicate.

When I initially read The Giver, I related to Jonas as he was similar in age and temperament.  Interestingly enough, I now relate to Claire as I am the father of two children myself.  I understand her innate need to be with her child, to love her child, to protect her child at all costs.

Son utilizes both science fiction and fantasy as it begins heavily with the former and ends almost exclusively with the latter.  I personally found it ended more akin to a fable than anything, and I honestly felt disappointment as Claire took a backseat to Gabe when the story became his.  I cannot argue, though, that it ties the previous three books together nicely and answers some frustrating questions introduced in The Messenger.

Son is a worthy conclusion to The Giver even if it is a departure in both tone and theme.  I am so glad to know Jonas and Gabe’s fate, and Claire cemented herself as a pinnacle character in the series as well.  I have no doubt young adults will particularly relish Lowry’s tale of overcoming evil, the enduring love of family, and the call of morality we all should heed.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – A Book Review

I teach teenagers, and because this book is consistently on the young adult best seller list, I felt it only right to give it a read.  After all, if I’m recommending books to my students, I need to have read them, right?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower did not disappoint.  Both charming and brutal, Chbosky captures the essence of high school.  His protagonist, Charlie, conveys his story to us through a series of letters written to … someone.  This first-person narrative device is especially appropriate because Charlie is wildly introverted.  Through his letters, we are able to ascertain his thoughts on the events unfolding around him.  We know him far better than anyone else in the novel, and that may be one reason behind his charisma.

Chbosky has delivered the ultimate outsider, but that outsider wins over a select group of kids, and as Charlie is accepted, we understand that these other teenagers take Charlie as he is, idiosyncrasies and all, which makes us love them as he loves them.  If I may digress a bit, in Charlie, I think many of us see ourselves.  Whether one is currently a teen or an old man like me, Charlie reminds us of some aspect of ourselves, and as he experiences triumphs here and there, we are triumphant with him.  Of course, for most, the comparisons end there, as I will touch upon later.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been banned in many schools, and while I personally don’t believe in banning books, I will admit that this book gets a tad graphic.  There is a lot of sex, a lot of drugs, and a lot of booze.  The language is harsh, and homosexuality is prevalent.  In other words, this book demands a certain level of maturity and perspective.  Would I be comfortable recommending this book to a middle school student?  Personally, I would not.  Honestly, I wouldn’t even feel it appropriate for underclassman at the high school level.  That being said, juniors and seniors could definitely handle it, and I would have no problem putting the books in their hands.

I won’t reveal the ending of the book to you – to do such a thing would be criminal.  However, it caught me off guard, to be sure.  I had pretty much made up my mind about Charlie’s aloofness.  When the true cause is revealed … it shocked me.

I’m glad I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it certainly deserves all the attention it’s garnered.  While I don’t believe for a minute it should be banned, I do think it requires a certain amount of maturity that some students may not yet possess.  Well-written that cuts to one’s emotional core, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an engaging read that will linger in the reader’s mind long after finishing it.