What are three strengths and three weaknesses of Gathering Blue?
Each reader will respond differently to Gathering Blue, but many will find a number of satisfying elements in the novel and possibly a few elements that are less satisfying. One strength of the novel is its strong and consistent point of view. The entire story is told from Kira's perspective. This allows readers to feel and understand things as Kira does--with all her confusion and doubt as well as her growing understanding. Another strength of the novel is the world that it builds. It's fascinating to consider what might become of our world after a nuclear holocaust, and the idea of society reverting to a primitive way of life in the shadow of its former glory is intriguing. Lowry creates the world in such a way that readers can imagine it, both in its physical manifestation and in its cultural and relational practices. The gradual unfolding of the controlling nature of the guardians is another strength. Readers are wary of Jamison at first, but then begin to trust him, only to suspect him more and more as Jo's imprisonment, Annabella's death, and the "coincidental" deaths of the three artists' parents are revealed. The surprising revelations at the end--Jamison's prior murderous attack on Christopher and the bondage of the singer--drive home just how dystopian the society is.
Despite these strengths, some readers may be disappointed with some aspects of the novel. Readers may question Kira's decision to stay in the society now that the depths of its depravity have been revealed. The society robbed her of her mother and father, and she knows the guardians have similarly murdered other children's parents and probably Annabella "for their own needs." Kira might intend to stay in order to bring change, but her motivations are never fully clarified in a way that readers can appreciate. Another loose end is the motivation of the antagonists. Readers understand that Jamison is motivated by jealousy and a quest for power, but why the guardians are so intent on preserving the song, the robe, and the other traditions is never fully explored. Presumably the song and robe are necessary for them to maintain power, yet that doesn't seem to explain Jamison's intense interest in the robe and in Kira's role. Finally, although the culture is presented in an interesting way, the fact that the citizens comply so easily with the guardians, especially when the guardians live in the modern Edifice while others live primitive lifestyles, seems implausible. Certainly the citizens may live in fear of being killed off by the guardians, yet there never seems to be the slightest hint of anger or revolution from the dominated masses toward the oligarchy.
To avoid these shortcomings, Lowry may have had to create a longer, more complicated story. Given its genre as a young adult fantasy novel, most readers will allow the story's strengths to outweigh these minor disappointments in characterization and plot.