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Book Review of Gifts

GeniusJen avatar reviewed on + 7145 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2

Reviewed by Lynn Crow for TeensReadToo.com

In Ursula K. Le Guin's GIFTS, the gifts in question bring more trouble than happiness to the novel's main character, sixteen-year-old Orrec. Orrec lives in the Uplands, a rough landscape where small clans squabble amongst themselves to maintain their land holdings and cattle herds. The leader of each clan has a specific gift: a mystical power that allows them to call animals or twist human bodies with the force of their mind. Orrec is the next in line to lead his clan, and his family's gift is one of the most terrible: the undoing. His father can kill a man with a word and a gesture, and it is expected that Orrec will come into the same power. However, when Orrec's power arrives, it is wild and uncontrollable, and he must stay blind-folded to avoid harming those he loves.

The best thing about this outstanding novel is its premise. Everyone has wished at one time or another for a secret power. GIFTS forces the question: what if your having such a gift caused harm to the people around you? It gives no easy answers, exploring the issue with depth and feeling. The society and culture of the Uplanders is detailed and realistic, making the conflicts that much more powerful. Readers will quickly feel as though they've lived in this wonderful and terrifying world themselves.

As narrator, Orrec is thoughtful and questioning, with a rhythmic voice that recalls traditional story-tellers. He handles the tragedies and disappointments in his life with honesty and good humor. Despite being from a somewhat alien world, his view is very human and teens will find it easy to see through his eyes. When he is finally able to face the most disappointing truth of all, readers will cheer even as they share his pain.

GIFTS is an excellent read for teens of all interests. Fans of fantasy will be particularly drawn to it, but the world is grounded enough in earthly reality that it should appeal even to those who usually avoid the fantastical. Thought-provoking and suspenseful, with a dollop of action and romance, a novel like this is a gift to its readers.

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