In 1994, Lois Lowry was awarded one of the highest annual honors given out for juvenile literature when her novel The Giver won the Newberry Award. That book remains her signature work, but in the decades since she has revisited the dystopia she created in that book to explore it through the eyes of different protagonists. Published a decade after The Giver, Messenger briefly transformed the series into a trilogy on the heels of the release of the first sequel, Gathering Blue, in time to greet the new millennium. In 2012, the trilogy official became The Giver Quartet and officially drew to a close with the publication of Son.
During the composition of Messenger and for a short time afterward, Lowry had decided to end the series as a trilogy with the story told in the third book. Sustained reader interest in what might become of an 8-year-old character named Gabriel who appears on just one page of Messenger eventually resulted in Son, which is actually less about the son than it is about his mother, Claire. Messenger introduces readers to an isolated and insulated community constructed upon a firm ideological belief in the wisdom of altruism that is known only as the Village. That sense of community and working together as a collective is juxtaposed against the fear of the known and unknown which inhabits the forbidden area known as the Forest which exists outside the borderline of the security guaranteed by the Village. The unrecognized dangers of a society threatened by the unknown and changes to their traditions parallels the recognition that the presumed darkness of forbidden realms may also not conform entirely to one’s prejudices about the superiority of their own society.
Messenger connects back to The Giver with a brief appearance by that novel’s main protagonist, Jonas, and also features several characters introduced in the previous entry, Gathering Blue. The timeline places the events described in Messenger as occurring eight years after the story told in The Giver. Six years have elapsed between the end of Gathering Blue and the beginning of Messenger. While the third book did not replicate the groundswell of recognition which greeted The Giver, it was—like Gathering Blue—another commercial and critical success for Lowry and further cemented her status as one of the pre-eminent writers working in the YA genre today.