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The interviews at the end are worth reading, especially if you're a writer. Although this book is categorized as a YA the truth telling is often profound as it is in all of her books. I recommend it for young and older alike.
Ursula LeGuin should be required reading in every middle school. This saga zings you with understated but deep insights into love, growing up, humanity, prejudice and ecology. The adventure stories are primary, but watch out for the way you are left laughing or in tears by the characters.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on February 24, 2022
I received this book as a gift. It is a beautiful edition and will last for years. The stories are wonderful - lyrical and engrossing. I enjoyed them much more now than when I read them 15 years ago. Part of the reason is that this is NOT a YA story even though the stories feature teen protagonists. The stories are actually a reminiscences by adult characters about childhood experiences as they try to find meaning in those experiences, hence the use of first person point of view. This is best shown in the opening paragraphs of "Voices" - "The first thing I can remember clearly is writing . . . ." Unfortunately, the stories can lose power because because the "why" of the reminiscences and the tension/conflict that impelled the older version of the characters to recount their tales to the audience is never stated. Additionally, the characters' voices never change. Orrec in "Gifts" sounds the same at the beginning of the story as at the end, even though he aged by several years, and the story emphasized that that he changed from a boy into a man. This would be expected in a reminiscence story where an adult seeks meaning from early events but not in a story focused on a character's development. I suspect that teens would read the book and say something like, "Another book adults think would be good for me." As a result, I can see why teens might connect closely with a character like Ender Wiggins in "Enders Game" rather than Orrec in "Gifts." So, 5 stars for adult readers because the book is lyrical and engrossing; 2 stars for YA readers because it is touted as YA when it is not.
Le Guin has been a life-long favourite. This book, however, is difficult at the start. I had to make notes of the names of who-is-who, their relationships, the places they belong to, the events etc. in order to keep track. But once past the first couple of chapters it becomes easier and it is worth the effort.