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In this eagerly anticipated companion to THE GIVER and GATHERING BLUE, it is the future, and the world has become a primitive place. Matty, Village's message carrier, lives with Seer, the blind man who took him in when Matty arrived in the town.

As his story begins, there is something Matty must do, although he fears it: he makes his way through Forest. Most of the other villagers won't venture into the increasingly dangerous woods because people, strangled by vines and branches, have died there. Forest welcomes Matty, however, and he has memorized the mazelike paths. This evening's mysterious quest leads to a certain frog. We learn that Matty discovered he has extraordinary powers when he healed this frog and brought him back from the brink of certain death. This potential force, with its implied responsibilities, terrifies Matty.

There are mysterious happenings in Matty's once-perfect Village. The family of Matty's friend Ramon recently traded for a Gaming Machine, a toy that rewards players with candy. Matty yearns for one of his own but worries about Ramon, who grows increasingly ill. A group, led by Matty's teacher, Mentor, has begun to protest Village's traditional open door to immigrants. This troubles Matty; it is so unlike the caring Mentor he has always admired. In fact, his teacher appears subtly different each time Matty sees him: Mentor is taller, thinner, and both his bald spot and his birthmark are disappearing.

Are the ominous changes in town related to the Trade Mart? What are people really trading? When Matty attends, everyone's hands are empty. Although they're making deals with the Trade Master, they bring nothing and carry nothing away. Some in the crowd weep; others argue. Most, though, are silent and nervous.

Matty promises Seer that he will travel through Forest to the village on the other side in order to bring Seer's daughter, Kira, to him. The clock is ticking because the villagers plan to build a fence by a certain date, admitting no newcomers. Matty believes they have time --- until Forest attacks the travelers. The trip toward Village becomes a nightmare journey, complete with flesh-tearing roots and twigs, blistering sap, unbearable stench and strangling vines.

Lois Lowry's many fans will love this fantasy, which continues the stories of several characters previously encountered in THE GIVER and GATHERING BLUE. In elegant prose, the author doesn't flinch away from harshness yet somehow manages to offer up hope.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on October 18, 2011

by Lois Lowry

  • Publication Date: October 2, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1328466205
  • ISBN-13: 9781328466204