Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Fantasy Tuesday- Son and Amber House

Lowry, Lois. Son.(The Giver #4)
2 October 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review copy from Baker and Taylor

***SPOILERS*** Maybe. Look away if you're ultrasensitive.
Claire is completing her first assignment as a birthmother, but when she produces her first newchild, things go very wrong. While the infant is okay, the birth is a Cesarean, and she is reassigned to work at the fish hatchery. She has found out that her product was a boy, and number 36, and she feels a strange and overpowering longing to see him. She hangs out at the nursery, befriends one of the workers who is particularly fond of her son, whom she believes is called Abe, and volunteers to help feed and play with the babies so she can be close to her son. It turns out that Claire was never given the pills that everyone in the society takes, so she is still able to feel emotion. When the man who has been caring for Abe finds out that he is not going to be placed with a family because he is fractious and has failed to thrive, the man's son, Jonas, steals the infant and runs away with him. Claire is not sure what happens to her, but she is washed into the river and is taken in by a community where the people nurture her and eventually help her to get up a cliff to another community to find her son. In order to do this, she has to make a trade with the Trademaster, who takes her youth. When the much older version of Claire makes her way to Jonas' community, they take her in. She finds her son, whose name is really Gabe, right away, but it is a long time before she confides in Jonas the events that brought her to him. It turns out that Gabe has a gift of "veering" into other people, and he has a longing to be loved by a mother. The two don't have much time to find each other, and in order for them to be together, they must overcome enormous obstacles.
Strengths: Lowry's writing is always beautiful, intriguing, and hard to put down. English teachers everywhere will be glad of this final book in the Giver cycle. I like the redone covers very much.
Weaknesses: I had trouble with this book on several levels. I found it hard to believe that a fourteen year old who had parents who didn't love her would feel so strongly that she wanted her baby back that she would give up her youth. Really, really couldn't buy into this. It has been a very long time since I read The Giver, so there were many things that I didn't remember about the world of this book, and that made it hard for me to feel overly worried about getting rid of the Trademaster. I was not fond of The Giver or Messenger, although Gathering Blue was pleasant. I know that this will be highly anticipated, but it just didn't work for me.

Cover image for Amber HouseMoore, Kelly and Tucker and Larkin Reed. Amber House.
1 October 2012, Scholastic.
Review copy from Young Adult Books Central

When Sarah's grandmother dies, she and her mother, along with her four-year-old brother Sam, travel from Oregon to Maryland to prepare the house for sale. Sarah's mother and father are having marital difficulties, her mother doesn't care at all for the multi-generational history and family connections that the house has, and is rude to the family retainers who are trying to help. Sarah's brother is difficult to take care of, since he is on the autism spectrum, and much of his care falls to Sarah. She is glad for the distraction of Jackson, whose grandmother works at the house and who wants to work with Sarah to try to find diamonds that were lost in the house years ago, but also likes the attention of Richard, the really attractive son of a senator whom her mother likes. While all of this is going on, Sarah starts to realize that when she touches objects in the house, she can read the emotions of the people who owned them, and she gets glimpses into a huge array of personal histories. She also has the problem that ghosts appear to her, and some of them are somewhat threatening. She would like to save Amber House from being sold, so cooperates with her mother when she wants to throw an elaborate birthday party for Sarah and invite all of the local wealthy people who might be interested in the house. Can the mysteries and ghosts of the past work in Sarah's favor to keep the house from being sold?
Strengths: This reminded me of some of Lois Duncan's writing (such as Down a Dark Hall). I liked the history of the house and the appearance of all of the characters from the past. The romances were a nice touch, as was the rarefied atmosphere of wealthy families and coming out parties. This would be a great summer read, or a book to curl up with while drinking a cup of cocoa by the fire.
Weaknesses: There were a lot of ghosts from the past that had issues, and I found myself getting a little bit confused.

Also took a look at Friesen's Aldo's Fantastical Movie Palace, which had a great cover and sounded really good, but somewhere between the grandfather shooting a grandson and the fantasy kingdom involving blind people named Retinya, it just wasn't for me. If you need a lot of magical realism in your library, take a look at it. Also read Lange's Butter, which was riveting, but definitely not for middle grades. Too much profanity, and the subject matter of a boy so miserable he wants to eat himself to death is a bit much, especially since he comes up with some ways that it might actually work. Excellent for high school, though.

1 comment:

  1. Amber House sounds like a book I will enjoy because I enjoy Lois Duncan's books. I recently found out that there are more books after The Giver. I just got them and look forward to reading them and the 4th one! Thanks so much for sharing.