Friday, October 11, 2013

Book Review: Gathering Blue

GATHERING BLUE: The writing style is simple yet engaging, but nothing else is worth noting

Gathering Blue tells the story of Kira, a girl with a twisted leg. When her mother dies and no one is left to take care of her, she is seen as a nuisance who should be eradicated quickly. However, she is spared by the Council of Guardians, as they see that the girl has a talent that no one else has. Being a gifted weaver, she is given a task that no other community member can carry out.

As a companion book to The Giver, it isn’t very surprising that Gathering Blue has similar themes. It is set in a future that is not predominated by technology, but by simple living. It talks about the nature of humans and its potential to make or break a civilization. However, Gathering Blue is not as powerful as The Giver, and there are a number of reasons why.

            Firstly, the story is very slow-paced, especially in the early parts of the book. The beginnings of the novel are plagued with flashbacks, which are used as a tool for world building. I find them very ineffective. Flashbacks as a means of world building tend to hinder the development of the plot. The author could have established the setting in real-time, instead of relying too much on flashbacks. The pacing gets even worse when sequences where nothing relevant actually happens appear. These sequences don’t drive the action or show character development. In other words, they’re unnecessary. This pacing makes certain parts of the book very disengaging.

Aside from its pacing, the story still has other problems. The twists and turns tend to be predictable. It’s not because the writing makes them so, but because they really are predictable inherently. However, I still appreciate them very much. They just feel to be uninspired.

Another problem I have with this book is the characterization. The main character, even though I like her a lot because of her good nature, is very passive. She just let things happen around her, instead of the other way around. She would have been a really bad character if she didn’t try doing things on her own in some parts of the book. The other characters are also not distinct. The only one that leaves an impression is Matt, and I’d go as far as to say that he is the most interesting character in the book. He is the only one who really has interesting actions and reactions.

Despite the negative things I’ve said, I don’t hate this book. There are redeeming factors that make it worth reading. One of these factors is the writing style. The author uses a voice that is very simple and innocent, yet it possesses a certain magic that drives the reader forward. Her style is proof that exploiting adverbs can still be engaging, even though it has the tendency to disengage readers from too much description. Her descriptions are vivid enough to start an image in the readers’ mind, and vague enough to leave some for the readers’ imagination.

Another thing that restores my faith on this book is how the chapters are divided. Each chapter is about eight to ten pages long and is divided into two sequences. This kind of writing, in a subconscious way, makes the readers think that the story is progressing well. But I have already pointed out that the pacing of the story is very slow. I’m just saying that this division of chapters and sequences tend to make up for it.

Overall, Gathering Blue is still an interesting read. Yes, it doesn’t have shocking twists and turns, the pacing is excruciating, and most of the characters are not well-crafted. But the writing style is in itself a joy to read. Aside from that, there are many symbolisms and underlying messages between the lines, and these are the real core of the book. This is a recommended read for those who have read The Giver, even though it could pass as a stand-alone work.

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