Reviews for Messenger

Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 February 2004
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 6-10. Like Lowry's hugely popular Newbery winner, The Giver (1993), this story dramatizes ideas of utopia gone wrong and focuses on a young person who must save his world. Teenage Matty lives with his caregiver in the Village, a place of refuge, where those fleeing poverty and persecution are welcomed with kindness and find a home. But the Village people are changing, and many have voted to build a wall to keep the newcomers out. The metaphor of the wall and the rage against immigrants ("They can't even speak right") will certainly reach out to today's news images for many readers. But Lowry moves far beyond message, writing with a beautiful simplicity rooted in political fable, in warm domestic detail, and in a wild natural world, just on the edge of realism. Matty lives with his blind caregiver, Seer. Both of them were driven from home and nearly perished. The drama is in their affection; in the small details of how they cook, care for their puppy, and tease one another. Matty teases Seer about his blindness, even though they both know Seer sees more than most. In contrast is the terror of Matty's secret powers and the perilous journey he must undertake to save the Village. The physical immediacy of his quest through a dark forest turned hostile brings the myth very close and builds suspense to the last heart-wrenching page. ((Reviewed February 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2004 April
A beloved author returns

In this companion volume to her novels The Giver and Gathering Blue, beloved author Lois Lowry brings the threads of the previous books together in an unforgettable way. Her third society, a utopia called Village, is made up mostly of people who have escaped from other, more oppressive places.

The inhabitants of Village welcome the downtrodden and the weary, giving them food, shelter, clothing and education. The newcomers are eventually made citizens. A man called Leader eventually gives each his or her true name, whether it is Stocktender, Seer or Messenger.

But something is amiss in Village. In frightening and subtle ways, people are changing, especially Mentor, the beloved schoolteacher. He once loved all children, especially the new arrivals who needed him most. But now he is leading the charge to close the utopia's borders, saying that he wants to keep new arrivals out to preserve Village for the villagers. But will closing the borders save Village? Is there danger ahead for the inhabitants of Lowry's utopia?

As the book unfolds, Lowry asks the reader to consider what it means to be human. Is it the love of knowledge or the love of things? Should we welcome the weak or protect what we have? What is the balance between the needs of citizens and the needs of oppressed people from outside a nation's border?

These questions are as ancient as human history and as current as the front page of today's newspaper. Lowry skillfully tackles them through the story of Matty, the book's young hero and one of the first people to notice the changes in Village. With his beloved dog, Matty embarks on a quest to find a missing Villager before it is too late. His journey makes Messenger more of a fairy tale than a contemporary narrative, though the book's underlying ideas are modern. We have a boy who is just beginning to discover his true gifts, a Forest which actually attacks travelers, a Leader who risks his life for his citizens, and a devastating conclusion that will certainly leave readers breathless, shocked and forever changed. This reviewer can't stop thinking about it. Copyright 2004 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Fall
Readers of [cf2]Gathering Blue[cf1] first met Matt as an exuberant child who found Kira's father (Seer), thought to be dead but instead living in Village, a utopian community of "broken" people. Now, years later, Matty is acting as a messenger for Leader, the blue-eyed Jonas from [cf2]The Giver[cf1]. Lowry's serene storytelling nurtures a compelling plot that allows her themes to flourish. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2004 #3
Readers of Gathering Blue (rev. 9/00) first met Matt as an exuberant child who found Kira's father (Seer), thought to be dead but instead living in Village, a utopian community of "broken" people. "Some don't walk good. Some be broken in other ways." Now, years later, Matty has grown older, flourishing under Seer's care and acting as a messenger for Leader, the blue-eyed Jonas (The Giver, rev. 7/93). "No longer a boy, but not yet a man," Matty is beginning to recognize his true gift: he can heal. But his self-awareness must wait: desire and envy have now entered Village, changing it into a selfish society. Citizens eagerly go to Trade Mart to trade for goods (such as a Gaming Machine in the case of Matty's friend Ramon's family) or for physical perfection (now evident in the schoolteacher, Mentor's, newly thickened hair, bleached birthmark, and slimmed waist). What do they trade away? Mentor trades his deepest self; others appear to have given up kindness, perhaps even their own children. A metaphorical sickness covers the land, physically thickening the Forest that separates Village from other communities and infecting many of Village's inhabitants. The altered townspeople vote to close their borders to prevent the "new ones," exiles from other communities, from entering. Their world needs Matty's gift; he must heal the land. And the price? His life. The story's biblical parallels (first suggested in Gathering Blue when the Singer recites the origin of the world, "In the beginning...") are fully realized here, but Messenger stands alone. While abstraction (Village, Mentor, Leader) sometimes makes the tale ponderous, Lowry's serene storytelling--unemotional descriptive passages, the conversations pregnant with import--nurtures a compelling plot that allows her themes to flourish. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

Kirkus Reviews 2004 April #1
Leader came to Village as a young boy on a red sled, the remains of which are in the Museum, a symbol of courage and hope to all of the villagers who came from elsewhere, fleeing poverty and cruelty. But the utopian community is in danger and young Matty must make a journey to save his friend Kira and bring her to Village before walls are erected against outsiders. Told in simple, evocative prose, this companion to The Giver (1993) and Gathering Blue (2000) can stand on its own as a powerful tale of great beauty. Though it does offer connections to its predecessors, it is not a mere postscript to them, but something new and grand: a completely enchanting, haunting story about the dark corruption of power and good people using their gifts as weapons against it. Readers will be absorbed in thought and wonder long after all of the pages are turned. (Fiction. 12+) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2004 November/December
With this book, Lois Lowry ties together The Giver (Houghton Mifflin, 1993) and Gathering Blue (Houghton Mifflin, 2000). Matty has lived in Village for six years. During that time he has seen it change from a group of "broken people" who welcomed any other damaged person to a group who wants to close its borders to outsiders. Matty must make a journey through Forest to the community where he once lived to bring Kira, his friend and daughter of Seer, back to Village before the wall surrounding Village is completed. Matty has become aware of a power he has developed to heal, but Leader has asked him not to squander his gift. Matty is torn between following Leader's directive and healing Kira's crippled leg to speed the journey through Forest. While the book could stand on its own, it needs the other books to appreciate the structure underlying the story. While it is not clear why the people have chosen to abandon their noble ideals for selfish pleasures, Matty's sacrifice restores the balance and brings the story to a satisfying conclusion. The three books together create a chilling picture of societies that were created with noble goals but have allowed rigid thinking and lack of compassion to influence their laws. Highly Recommended. Charlotte Decker, Librarian, Children's Learning Center, Public Library of Cincinnati (Ohio) and Hamilton County © 2004 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 February #3
Lowry masterfully presents another thought-provoking, haunting tale in this third novel, a companion to The Giver and Gathering Blue. Matty, the scruffy thief from Gathering Blue, lives with the blind man called Seer and helps him around the house. Now an educated young adult, Matty delivers messages for Leader, the head of Village, traversing the sometimes inhospitable Forest. On one such mission, he discovers that he has the power to heal. Meanwhile, sinister attitudes begin to infiltrate his formerly tolerant Village-most notably in Mentor, the man who "tamed" Matty-and to threaten the principles on which it was founded. While Lowry intertwines compelling threads from past novels (readers discover what happened to Jonas, and that Kira also has a connection to Village), this story more than stands on its own. The author revisits some of the themes of her previous novels (the cost of striving for physical perfection; the benefits of inclusion), and takes them to another level. Because she continues to work in allegorical terms, her lessons about the effects of consumerism on society and the importance of knowing one's history never feel teacherly; instead, she allows readers to come to their own conclusions. And Matty himself, once a taker, in many ways brings the series full circle, becoming the Village citizen who offers the greatest gift. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2004 April
Gr 6 Up-Matty, who has lived in Village with the blind Seer since running away from an abusive childhood, is looking forward to receiving his true name, which he hopes will be Messenger. But he is deeply unsettled by what is going on. He has discovered his own power to heal others and learned of disturbing changes within his community. Under the gentle guidance of Leader, who arrived in Village on a red sled as a young boy and who has the power of Seeing Beyond, the citizens have always welcomed newcomers, especially those who are disabled. But a sinister force is at work, which has prompted them to close admission to outsiders. Also, it seems that Matty's beloved Mentor has been trading away parts of his inner self in order to become more attractive to Stocktender's widow. When the date for the close of the border is decided, Matty must make one more trip through the increasingly sinister Forest to bring back Seer's daughter, the gifted weaver Kira. On the return journey, Matty must decide if he should use his healing but self-destructive power to reverse the inexorable decline of Forest, Village, and its people. While readers may be left mystified as to what is behind the dramatic change in Village, Lowry's skillful writing imbues the story with a strong sense of foreboding, and her descriptions of the encroaching Forest are particularly vivid and terrifying. The gifted young people, introduced in The Giver (1993) and Gathering Blue (2000, both Houghton), are brought together in a gripping final scene, and the shocking conclusion without benefit of denouement is bound to spark much discussion and debate.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2004 June
Fans of Lowry's Newbery-winning The Giver (Houghton Mifflin, 1993/VOYA August 1993) and its companion book, Gathering Blue (2000/VOYA October 2000), will find themselves brought back to the same world that bridges the two previous volumes by connecting characters and events, answering some questions but asking even more. Matty is the main character, a boy on the threshold of adulthood, who lives in Village with Seer, the blind man who has taken him in and raised him as his own. Matty is a messenger who travels throughout Village and occasionally through Forest, taking messages to the communities beyond. Village has been a welcoming place of refuge for others like Matty who have fled their homes to escape mistreatment and even death; however, something is different. People in Village are changing, and a group of townspeople have approached Leader demanding to close off Village to refugees. Through democratic vote, the will of the people prevails. Matty must warn the other communities that Village will soon be off-limits, and he must travel through Forest, which is thickening and growing more sinister day by day. His most important task is to bring Seer's daughter, Kira, back with him on his return journey, which becomes more ominous and more dangerous with every step. Matty's journey is one of self-discovery, and Lowry's simple prose belies complex issues of human nature woven throughout the story-faith, desire, and accepting the consequences of one's choices. As in The Giver, by the end of this book readers will want the story to continue to answer the questions that Lowry poses.-Michele Winship 4Q 5P M J S Copyright 2004 Voya Reviews.