Son Novel Review: Return To Form…Almost

Son by Lois Lowry

If you’ve read my reviews for the other books in the Giver Quartet you may expect this blog post for Son to be full of disappointment, irritation and exasperation.

But you’d be wrong. Sort of.

Son introduces a new character, Claire, a young teen living in the same community that was featured in the first novel, Giver. Claire is assigned to be a birthmother, which basically means she is nothing more than a vessel to grow and birth a child that will eventually be given to a couple approved to become its guardians. There are complications during Claire’s first labour and, after an emergency caesarean, Claire is no longer able to have children. She is hastily reassigned to a job in the fish hatchery and forgotten about, but she doesn’t find it so easy to forget her experiences. She has a huge feeling of loss and desperately wants to see her baby, who she found out was a boy, even though it’s strictly forbidden.

Claire manages to visit and volunteer at the infant nursery centre in her spare time and meets her son. What ensues is a stirring story about loss, maternal instincts and the conflict of nature versus nurture…until Claire tries to escape and is shipwrecked and has amnesia and magic and irritating characters and YA romance tropes and disappointment.

I was so excited when I first started reading Son. It made me realise that I am completely fascinated by ‘the Community’ and how the subtle elements of fantasy are intertwined with a story about a deeply oppressed society. Everything about it is sophisticated, both in writing style and in plot. However, the moment Lowry ventures out of the Community everything ceases to make sense and the characters become somehow both cartoonish and dull.

The fourth book successfully ties all of the characters in the series together in a relatively interesting way, it’s just a shame that I didn’t enjoy much of it.

I’ve been told that I’ve critiqued the quartet quite harshly, but YA fiction should be scrutinised in the same way as all forms of literature. Just because the themes are aimed towards younger people doesn’t mean the content should be cliché, simplistic or dull. It’s insulting.

It seems as though the Giver was written purely because it was an incredible idea that Lowry was passionate about, but the other three books were created with a specific audience in mind. I can see the boxes that were ticked, the demographic that was targeted and the marketing campaign the publishers used.

I hope that YA fiction changes. I hope that it starts to frighten adults, that parents begin to debate their suitability and teenagers become absorbed and petrified by the content they read. I want to read something and both wish I were a teenager again and be glad that I’m not. Everything has become so soft and balanced and silly and I’m done with the bullshit. Bring back Holden Caulfield and Scout Finch, characters that actually spoke for younger people.


This review is part of my 2017 Reading Challenge.


Emily created Dystopic in July 2012 after requiring an outlet for her love of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. She is currently working on her debut novel 'These Unnatural Men' to be self-published in 2018.

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