Son is the fourth book in the Giver Quartet, so this review will contain spoilers for the first three books. You've been warned.
This is such a neat quartet of books! You really need to read all four to get the best appreciation, but each one could also be a standalone. That really impresses me, that Lois Lowry pulled that off. If you read The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger you are in for a real treat in Son: the main characters from the previous three books are all present and accounted for in it! The Giver isn't mentioned in Gathering Blue or Messenger, but he's brought back into play in Son. Remember Jonas, who was being trained to be the next Giver? At the beginning of Son, he's just a boy. And no, he's not the titular son. I really just cannot gush enough about how COOL it was to see the whole story from the first three books brought full circle in this fourth book!
Son is told in three parts, with multiple chapters in each part. There is Before, Between, and Beyond. In the first part, Before, we meet Claire. She's a young girl, 13 years old, and is at her first work assignment in her community. She is a Vessel. Come to find out, Vessels are young girls (13-16 years old), and their "job" is to produce Products. Products being babies. Older girls, who have already Produced one or two Products tell Claire what to expect. There will be a little bit of pain, and she'll be blindfolded, and then it will be over and she'll get to rest for 6 months before Producing again. Are you weirded out yet? I sure was! Anyway, it gets worse: when it comes time for Claire to Produce, something goes wrong. The pain is intense. She ends up undergoing a c-section, although it's not called that in the book. Because of this, Claire is allowed a little time to recover and then released from being a Vessel and reassigned to the fish hatchery. In her society, everyone takes "vitamins" every day, and the vitamins damp down feelings. There's a clerical error or something and Claire ends up not taking the vitamins, even after being reassigned to the fish hatchery. She finds reasons to visit the infant care center, and ends up discovering which baby she produced. No surprise here: she loves the baby, Product 36, and daydreams of taking him and raising him herself. Of course that can't happen. She ends up sort of befriending a nursery worker guy, who is taking extra special care of Product 36. I say sort of befriending because even though he and Claire talk nearly every day, she never bothers to ask his name. Seriously. There's a few places where Lowry asks for suspension of disbelief.
So that's Before. And I feel like there'd be spoilers if I went into too much detail with Between and Beyond. Lets see... so in the official back-of-book description it does say that there's a culmination to the battle between good and evil. So you know that's coming. And you know from the back of the book that Claire will stop at nothing to get her son back. And I mean nothing. Claire has to work long and hard, like, for years, to get back to her son. She also ends up having to make a pretty huge sacrifice. I'm an adult reading this book and I got all kinds of emotionally invested and my heart just broke for Claire. I was so rooting for her!
I've already gushed about how much I loved the whole tying-it-all-togetherness. Now for the small gripe: Lowry kind of asks a lot of the reader in making come connection leaps over a few plot potholes. Like, at one point Claire is in a village where the men all fish, in boats, yet the only way to leave the village is to scale a cliff. What about the boat, Lowry? Why can't anyone sail around the cliff? Just a few little things like that. I wouldn't say it's enough to knock any stars off my rating.
I listened to this book on CD and loved it. I thought the narrator did a great job. The pacing was great and the narrator kept me engaged and focused. There were a few times I was tempted to sit in my car in the parking lot and just keep listening.
This book would be 4 of 5 stars as a standalone and 5 of 5 stars as a series finale!
*I checked out my copy of Son from my public library.