In Gathering Blue, Lois Lowry creates a future world in which people are valued only for their ability to contribute to society. Those who cannot are condemned to death in the “field.” Throughout the story, the main character, Kira, must battle several kinds of external conflict.
This type of story is part of a genre called the “dystopian” novel. Dystopias are the opposite of utopias (perfect worlds). In a dystopia, life is grim and people are usually in constant danger from authorities. Some famous dystopias include Brave New World, 1984, and more recently, The Hunger Games.
As with most dystopias, the central conflict is man (or woman) vs. society. In this case, Kira is in conflict with a society that does not tolerate disabled citizens. Because of her physical condition, she is subject to possible death in the field, like other disabled people. She has to prove her worth as a weaver to survive.
There is also person vs. person conflict. Kira conflicts with a character named Vandera who wants to take away her home. She also conflicts with another character named Jamison, who she initially believes is an ally, only to learn later that he actually attempted to murder her father.