I've been hooked on books since childhood, and still am. I usually have at least three books going at any given time. After nearly two decades teaching middle school, I've developed strong opinions about YA fiction. A married mother of many adult children, and a practicing Catholic, my moral paradigms do play into my reviews.
Gifts: (The Annals of The Western Shore, book #1) by Ursula Le Guin
What if you have the power to kill with your mind? Kill trees, kill animals, kill people? But what others also had powers, powers to curse someone you love with a slow death, powers to call or send away animals, or to make or unmake fire? How would people live together, bearing such "gifts"? How would you ever feel safe? This is the world LeGuin invites us to explore.
The Lowlanders have no " gifts", and lead what appears to be simple, nearly medieval, agrarian lives. But in the Upland area, each family has a "gift". Some families are more powerful than others, but all of them are dangerous as enemies and, perhaps, even more dangerous as allies. Lowlanders, naturally, distrust and dislike Uplanders, who in turn disdain the Lowlanders for their normalcy.
Orrec Caspro is our narrator. Like most young teens, the adult world sometimes confuses him. Parental expectations weigh heavily on him. His best friend Gry baffles him. But, truly, his biggest concern is that he has not yet shown his Gift. This novel follows his growth as he struggles to understand the politics in his Uplander community, where they are regarded as witches for their "gifts", and the delicate balances in his own family as well. And to understand his own terrible and terrifying gift, when it arrives. Gry must wrangle with concerns of her own, regarding the use of her personal gift.
While not as exciting or action packed/ powerful as her amazing Earthsea trilogy, this is nonetheless a beautiful, introspective novel, and features both the philosophical depth and poetic lyricism of her other works. The plot is slowish, but the character definition is profound, and I for one could hardly put it down.
If you are an Ursula LeGuin fan, you will like this very much. If her finely crafted and layered style annoys you, walk away. Just know that I will pity you as you go.