Messenger by Lois Lowry has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in "The Giver Quartet" series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Matty arrived in Village six years ago. No age is given, but he came as a young thief and liar, the product of an abusive home. Under the guidance of his teacher, Mentor, and his caretaker, an old blind man called Seer, Matty changes his ways and embraces Village's traditions of kindness and openness to all. He now looks forward to learning his true name the way other adults have, a name that will confirm his unique mystical gift. He expects that name will be Messenger, since he has already been charged with the task of taking correspondence through the forest to other villages. Most people are unable to leave Village through the forest, as Forest often entangles and kills them. But Forest seems to know Matty has a job to do and allows him safe passage.
Matty secretly begins to suspect he has the power to fix broken things. He discovers this when he accidentally steps on a frog in the forest, nearly tearing off its leg. When he picks it up, power surges through his hand, and the frog is restored. He also heals his friend Jean's two sick dogs, a mother and puppy, in the same way. Jean gives him the puppy, which he names Frolic.
When Matty's friend Ramo and his family make a trade to get a Gaming Machine, Matty becomes more curious about trading and the Trade Mart that takes place in town occasionally. Seer is a bit skeptical about trading and tells Matty he's too young, but the boy decides to attend a Trade Mart to see what the fuss is about.
He's surprised to see that no one has brought anything to trade. Townspeople loudly announce what they are trading for, but they whisper to the Trademaster whatever it is they're trading away. When Matty shares his experience with Seer, the old man seems concerned. Matty and Seer eventually realize that the people who trade are changing, physically and emotionally. They are actually trading away their deepest selves to fulfill their desires for attractiveness or material goods. Mentor, for example, is trading himself for an improved physical appearance so he can win the attention of a town widow. Though he looks increasingly more attractive, he no longer exhibits kindness or the love for poetry he once shared with his students. As people trade themselves away, they lose the friendliness and warmth that defined Village. Rallied by Mentor, the majority of citizens vote to have Village closed to outsiders so they won't have to demonstrate hospitality or share their resources.
Leader, who had arrived in Village by sled years earlier, reluctantly sends Matty to let the other villages know of the impending border closing. Leader says he knows about Matty's secret gift and urges the boy not to squander it. Seer is particularly concerned when citizens vote to close the borders permanently in just a few weeks. His daughter, Kira, lives in a neighboring village. He asks Matty to go through Forest and bring her to him before she's no longer allowed to enter.
As Matty makes this journey, posting notifications of Village closure along the way, Leader's unique vision reveals Forest is growing hostile and dangerous, even for Matty. Matty convinces Kira to return to Village with him, but their journey back is painful and treacherous as Forest fights against them at every turn. Leader heads into Forest to rescue them and becomes trapped and injured himself. He communicates telepathically with Kira, telling Matty now is the time to use his gift. Unsure how to fulfill his destiny, the weakened Matty reaches out and digs his fingers into the earth. At his touch, Forest begins to return to its former state. Matty's sick friend back home also starts to get well. Mentor returns to normal, both physically and emotionally. All of the energy required of Matty to fix the brokenness ends up killing him. He sees his death coming and gives himself as a willing sacrifice. As they prepare to take Matty's body back to Village, Leader tells Kira that Matty's true name is Healer.
Other Belief Systems
Adults have mystical gifts. Leader's unique vision reveals Forest is growing hostile and dangerous, and he is able to communicate telepathically with Kira. Matty digs his fingers into the earth. At his touch, Forest begins to return to its former state. Matty's sick friend back home also starts to get well. Mentor returns to normal, both physically and emotionally. All of the energy required of Matty to fix the brokenness ends up killing him.
Matty and Jean say "out d--n spot" and "O he--kite!" when quoting Shakespeare.
Jean kisses Matty, wishing him well on his journey.
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