Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lord of the Flies Meets Heroes in Gripping, Post-Apocalyptic Gone

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Imagine a world with no adults. No parents, no teachers, no police, no firefighters, no doctors. A world in which children must fend for themselves as best they can. Danger crouches in every corner of their strange, new world. How can they possibly survive?

This is the question Michael Grant explores in Gone, the first book in his post-apocalyptic, dystopian series for teens. When the story opens, it's a normal day in small town Perdido Beach, California. Fourteen-year-old Sam Temple is sitting in history class dreaming of the beach while his teacher drones on about the Civil War. Then, without any warning, Mr. Trentlake disappears. And he's not the only one. All the teachers in the school, all the administration, all the janitors, all the lunch ladies - all the adults in town are just ... gone. Cars are smashed into each other, stoves are still on, meals are steaming on tables - it's as if everyone evaporated all at the same second. Sam; his best friend, Quinn; and beautiful, smart Astrid head straight to their homes, where the enormity of the catastrophe hits them - not only are their parents gone, but all over the town, there must be helpless babies laying in cribs, confused toddlers without caretakers, and kids like Astrid's brother, Pete, who can barely understand the world on a typical day, let alone one gone mad.

As kids mill around town in shock, new problems are revealed - they have no phone service, no t.v. signals, no Internet. No way to communicate to the outside world. Even if "outside" still exists, the kids can't leave: there are cars all over the place, but no one knows how to drive. And Perdido Beach is getting more dangerous by the second. With no one to stop them, kids are looting the stores, school bullies are taking charge, fires are breaking out, and children are screaming for their mothers. Sam doesn't want to be in charge of this mess, but he knows someone has to do something. Besides, he has a sinking suspicion that he may have caused the disaster in the first place.

Sam's been keeping a secret, something so weird, so crazy that he hasn't dared tell anyone. He doesn't know how it happens, but somehow, Sam can generate balls of light with his hands. Dangerous light. Light that burns people. As he watches a sinister crowd of kids descend on Perdido Beach from the exclusive Coates Academy, Sam discovers he's not the only one with powers. In this strange new world, everything seems to be mutating - people, animals, even the weather and tides. With a menacing new bully in town, it's up to Sam to protect his people. As reluctant as he is to reveal his powers, they may be the only thing that can keep him and his friends alive in the crazy new world they've labeled the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone).

It's a whole new world, one in which regular rules no longer apply. Bullies patrol the streets with metal baseball bats, kids who step out of line get beaten, freshmen become surgeons, snakes fly, and ordinary children turn into superheroes, villains, saints and monsters. Civil War is no longer a boring history lesson - it's a way of life. It's just the way it is, now, in a place called the FAYZ.

So, it took all of one sentence for this story to grab me. Actually, enslave me. If I didn't have to eat, sleep, bathe or take care of my family, I probably would have devoured this whole series in one sitting. Gone is such a tense, action-packed, furiously-paced thrill ride that I actually had to force myself to breathe. Talk about an adrenaline rush. Whew! I'm sure there are flaws in the book, but my heart's still racing too fast for me to think of anything major. All I know is that Gone kept me thoroughly entertained and has me completely addicted - I've got the next two books in the series sitting on my shelf. I think I feel a bad cold coming on ... I should probably stay home from church ... you know, lay in bed and read a book to soothe my poor, aching body ... *cough* *sniff* *cough*

You can find out more about Michael Grant and this superb series by visiting http://www.thefayz.com/ .

(Readalikes: Life As We Knew It series by Susan Beth Pfeffer)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for mild language and sexual innuendo; violence; and scenes of danger/peril

To the FTC, with love: I received this book from the very generous folks at HarperTeen. Thanks!

4 comments:

  1. Wow! Susan, you really know how to pique a reader's interest. :-) I will be on the lookout for this book.

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  2. I've heard much about this, but haven't picked it up yet. Now, I will definitely put it on my list. Sounds like what I thought of The Knife of Never Letting Go.

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  3. This actually sounds a lot like this fairly old book, "The Girl Who Owned a City". I liked that as well as "Life As We Knew It", which was an okay book, so I can see how I might enjoy "Gone" when in the right mood. I don't usually like reading books that seem so similar to others I've read, but I suspect (given that "The Girl Who Owned a City" was written in 1975) that this will be a fairly fresh take. And the title of this review is probably the greatest x meets y description of a book I've read in a long time.

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  4. I SO need to read this.

    BTW, I was just admiring your dsytopian guide tab.

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