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.
Powers: The Annals of The Western Shore #3 by Ursula LeGuin
Gav was raised as a slave and cannot imagine a world without slavery. It seems the only way the world works, indeed almost reasonable to him. Gav and his sister Sallo are not native to their city state, Etra, but were captured as very small children and raised as slaves. He is proud that his owners, the House Arcamand, are "honorable" and that he is treated well, unlike in other Houses, where slaves are not well-fed, or given fine clothing, educated. In fact, he is being raised to become the House Teacher. His older sister Sallo is being raised to become a Gift Girl... and it quickly becomes clear that in his innocence, young Gav does not realize the dire implications of this status. Gift girls are given as gifts to those the House wishes to bond. They have no say in the matter and are little more than prostitutes.
Sallo warns Gab that he must hide from his owners (indeed from everyone but her) his "power", a sort of future seer-sight. His visions come at inopportune times, but they come true, ro were once true long ago. They disturb him and unnerve others. He is content with his life of learning and service at first. But then the underside of slavery begins to become apparent to him, through a series of events over which he is not permitted any voice or control......and his world is disrupted beyond repair. He spends the second half of the book wrestling to understand a world in which such evil exists, and seeking a reason to even just keep living.
This is the third in the Annals of The Western Shore trilogy by one of my favorite YA writers, Ursula Le Guin. Like book two, it is a separate story of a separate person not found in the first book, yet there are connections that become clearer as you read on. Orrec Caspro appears again, much older, and we meet Memer again, briefly, beautifully, sweetly. This book is darker than the first two by far. It asks a terrible question: why should we keep going when life is so unfair and brutal?
Book one in the series wrestled with questions of personal power and "might makes right." Book two wrestled with illiteracy and war, and the power of the written word. Book three wrestles rather brutally with slavery and freedom, and the different KINDS of slavery. Gav is an outright slave at the beginning, but in many ways he is no less a slave after he escapes into the Denedan forest. Of course I am grossly simplifying this: all three books wrestle with many more things.....but this is what I love about Ursula le Guin's work: the wrestling with BIG QUESTIONS.
I adored the Earthsea Trilogy. This one is wonderful as well. I;d give this to any strong reader ages 11 or so and up. I'd insist that my own kids read it, if they were that age. still.If I had the power, this is one of a short list of 20 books that I would recommend all adults to read and study.