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Book Review

This suspense novel by James Patterson and Ned Rust is the second in the " Witch & Wizard" series published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of the Hachette Book Group Inc.

The Gift is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Seventeen-year-old Whit Allgood and his 15-year-old sister, Wisteria (Wisty), think they are normal teenagers until the New Order kidnaps them and accuses them of witchcraft and wizardry. Ruled by an evil dictator known as The One Who Is The One, the New Order has banned all books, movies, music and artwork that promote creativity, imagination or magic. When Whit and Wisty discover they do have magical powers, they use them to escape prison and reach the Freeland. They become part of the Resistance and live with hundreds of other kids in a former department store. Whit and Wisty learn they're part of a prophecy that calls them liberators. The offspring of Wiccan parents who are also on the run from the New Order, Whit and Wisty are told they will be more powerful than any Wiccans have ever been before them.

As The Gift opens, Whit and Wisty continue to help liberate imprisoned children and bring them into the Freeland. The One Who Is The One stages an execution, telling everyone the victim is Wisty. He actually kills another young Resistance member to draw out Wisty and her cohorts. Whit and Wisty regroup with their friends and begin making plans to infiltrate the New Order's Acculturation Facility. This "school" is one of the sites where the New Order tortures, indoctrinates and enslaves children.

The Resistance holds a music festival, largely for recruitment purposes. Wisty helps out by playing guitar and is lauded for her abilities. She falls for the drummer in another band. He later betrays her by stealing her magic drumstick and helping the New Order capture her and Whit. While in custody, the kids learn their parents have also been apprehended. The One Who Is The One shows Wisty how he can control the forces of nature, and he urges her to try as well. He becomes angry and frustrated when he sees she has so much power without the ability to harness it properly. The One ships Whit and Wisty to the Brave New World center, a facility where kids are reprogrammed and given highly addictive chocolate as a means of behavior modification. The One's scientists use several forms of torture on Wisty, trying to make her surrender her gift of magic. When escape seems hopeless, one of The One's informants, Byron, helps the kids leave the facility in the form of fish through a toilet pipe.

Once Whit and Wisty have returned to human form, they discover and thwart a library burning. Evil adults of the New Order look on in shock as the books they're destroying begin to fly away under Wisty's spell. Byron appears with a pack of monster-children the New Order has trained to kill. They chase Whit and Wisty into the Shadowland, where Whit's dead girlfriend, Celia, exists. Byron reveals Whit is clairvoyant, and he urges Whit to turn himself in so he (Byron) and Wisty can save the children of the Resistance with their combined powers. Whit and Wisty escape, leaving Byron behind to deal with the monster-children. When they exit the Shadowland, Whit and Wisty discover months have passed. Their former hideout in the Freeland has been bombed. They and other Resistance members battle the New Order en route to finding a new place to live.

They visit Wisty's witch friend, Mrs. Highsmith, hoping she can give them direction. She allows them to talk with their parents in her crystal ball. The parents offer the cryptic message that the kids should give their gifts away. The One arrives, causing natural disasters that show his abilities to control the air, earth and water. He temporarily imprisons Whit and Wisty with their parents, only to vaporize Mom and Dad. Celia and other dead souls from the Shadowland rescue Whit and Wisty just before they're executed. Wisty, separated from Whit, vows to find him.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

Wisty and Whit practice and embrace wizardry and witchcraft, casting spells and seeking to improve their skills. The New Order bans magic, lumping it in the same category as the arts — literature, music, museums and words that promote creativity and imagination. One of their young friends is a shaman. She can't do magic herself, but her gift is to work with witches and wizards to help them hone their powers. Whit and Wisty and others can travel through portals into other dimensions. Whit's girlfriend, Celia, for example, was killed by the New Order and now dwells as a Half-light in a purgatory called the Shadowland. Lost Ones are rotting souls, something like monsters, that live in the Shadowland.

Most members of the Resistance, those fighting the New Order, are children. Wisty says it's because the kids have the gifts of talent and passion that the adults don't. The one adult on Whit and Wisty's side is a witch named Mrs. Highsmith. She teaches Wisty the importance of positive and negative energy and the role they play in the kids' battle against the New Order. Mrs. Highsmith says never to underestimate the power of what she (Wisty) and others create; she says there is tremendous energy and life force in it.

The kids come to believe that they can overtake the New Order's soldiers because they are overflowing with ideas, creativity and potential while the New Order only has weapons. They believe The One Who Is The One is scared of their energy and potential. The One uses his powers to create a tornado over the city. He urges Wisty to use her gift, her energy, to do the same. Later, he tells her there is no power in the pen and page anymore, only in energy.

The New Order lockup for children contains a gym used to test the children. Wisty says they don't want to admit kids might have magical powers, so they examine them for energy capabilities. Wisty whispers a prayer of thanks to her mother for watching over her. A group of adults, who Whit and Wisty quickly identify as New Order folks because they're grown-ups, prepares to burn a library. They chant that books equal chaos, and they want order. The kids note there is no spark of life or passion in their eyes.

A fellow Resistance member tells the kids he believes Whit is clairvoyant. He suggests that each generation develops new magical characteristics to cope with the forces of nature, like in evolution. In his final push to beat Wisty, The One demonstrates his power over all the forces of nature, including the wind, water and air. Seeing his great power, Wisty wonders if he is God. Whit says it's safe to assume no one has seen anything like the power The One is displaying, unless humans are expected to take the Great Book literally.

Authority Roles

The One Who Is The One is a powerful and evil dictator who frequently disintegrates, vaporizes or otherwise de-humanizes those with whom he's unhappy. Other higher-ups in the New Order imprison, torture and experiment on children they see as a threat to their government. They ultimately kill or reprogram them or use them for slave labor.

Whit smells alcohol, which is strictly forbidden in the New Order, on the breath of one of the supervisors at a child reprogramming facility. Whit and Wisty think fondly of their parents, with whom they were very close. Except for Whit and Wisty's parents and Mrs. Highsmith, adults in the book are part of the New Order. The Resistance is made up of children, whom adults fear and envy because kids have passion, creativity and imagination that they do not possess.

Profanity/Violence

The Lord's name is frequently used in vain. H---, b--tard, butt, heck, crap, sucks, freaking (in lieu of the other f-word) and the abbreviations OMG, WTH and BS also appear.

The One Who Is The One burns one of his commanders to ash with a cigar when the man fails to capture Wisty. He disintegrates Whit and Wisty's friend to ash as well. When Whit goes to the Shadowland looking for Celia, some of the Lost Ones attack him, pin him down and try to eat him. They snarl and moan with jagged teeth.

A scientist in the New Order's labor camp trains children to do his bidding based on notes he plays on a pitch pipe. By playing an F sharp, he forces one girl to bang her head against the wall repeatedly. Guards throw children against the wall. New Order scientists torture Wisty repeatedly in an effort to get her gift of magic. They wax her skull to remove the hair, subject her to bright flashes of light and ear-shattering noise, use a severe pinching technique, force-feed her horrific things and make her hold the severed hands of the drummer on whom she'd had a crush.

A New Order created creature guards Whit and Wisty's parents. Its flesh is falling off, its mouth drips with blood, and it has mangy fur through which patches of its skull bone are sticking out. The One Who Is The One sends out brainwashed kids-turned-killing-machines to destroy Whit and Wisty. They are fast and powerful, with teeth designed for tearing through raw flesh and claw-like fingernails. Whit and Wisty wrestle with these monsters, emerging covered in blood. They escape and watch as the feral children turn on their handler.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

In the previous book, Whit merged with his spirit girlfriend, Celia. While this surreal experience isn't inherently sexual, Whit says he could feel Celia in a way that was more intense and intimate than ever before. He says it was like they were one person. He recalls and longs for this experience several more times in The Gift.

After a wild evening of playing in a band, Wisty wakes up with vague memories of kissing a drummer and possibly falling asleep in his arms. Byron looks at Wisty with lustful eyes, making Whit feel protective of her. Whit gives a long good-bye kiss to one of his close female friends in the Resistance.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Smoking: Bad guys smoke victory cigars after capturing Whit and Wisty.

Drugs/Addiction: The chocolate at the New Order facility turns kids, including Wisty, into addicts. Kids will comply with any rules to get just a little more of the special sweets. When Whit says something unbelievable, Wisty sarcastically asks him if he's high.


This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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