Houghton Mifflin: 393 pp., $17.99, ages 12 and up
It's been 19 years since the publication of Lois Lowry's pioneering Newbery Medal winner, "The Giver," which painted a bleak picture of a future society in which color does not exist, love is suppressed and sameness is revered. No one would have guessed that almost two decades later, "dystopian" would be its own genre in the young adult biblioscape, giving rise to blockbuster franchises such as "The Hunger Games," "Divergent," "Matched" and now, a follow-up from the author who's credited with starting it.
"Son" is the Rashomon-style conclusion to "The Giver," told from the perspective of the young birth mother whose infant was saved in the original book. It's an intriguing premise that finally resolves the question readers have long pondered: What happened to 13-year-old Jonas and his infant charge, Gabriel, after they fled their well-ordered community? The answer is presented in three sections, or "books," that read like interlinked individual novellas — each of them taking place in different worlds with characters culled from other titles in what is now a literary quartet that also includes "Messenger" and "Gathering Blue."
With "Son," Lowry ambitiously, but not always successfully, weaves together the threads. Book 1 is the flawless story of 12-year-old Claire, a "vessel" who's been selected for artificial insemination and eventually gives birth to the child first known as Thirty-Six and later, as Gabriel. The action takes place in the same sterile, choice-less community as "The Giver" and is written to perfection by Lowry, who doesn't miss a beat when it comes to describing a life devoid of human connection and history. Claire's birth experience helps to explain how Thirty-Six got to be so fussy that he was targeted for "release." It's postpartum when Claire comes into contact with the nurturer of the child she was never supposed to meet but nevertheless seeks out in defiance of the rules.