Monday, February 08, 2010

It's the End of the World As We Know It and I Feel ... Riveted

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"New York was more dead than alive, and those people who were still around didn't help anyone but themselves" (250).

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Dead & the Gone, it may inadvertently spoil surprises from the first book in the series, Life As We Knew It. As always, I highly recommend reading the first book first.)

After reading about a chapter of Susan Beth Pfeffer's dystopian novel, Life As We Knew It (my review), I knew I had to get my hands on the sequel. Since I hadn't finished the first book in the series, I didn't even read the plot summary for the second. I just put it on reserve at the library. After holding my breath through Life As We Knew It, waiting to see if Miranda and her family survives after an asteroid hits the moon, I couldn't wait to see what adventures she tackled next. So, I settled in to read about Miranda ... only to encounter someone else entirely! Be forewarned: As Gamila says in her review of The Dead & the Gone, it's not as much a sequel to Life As We Knew It as it is a companion book.

The story takes place in the same time period as the first book, except this time, we're in New York when the asteroid hits. Seventeen-year-old Alex Morales doesn't think much of it at first. He's more concerned about studying his way to a Georgetown scholarship. Then, the power goes out; his mom has to stay to help with multiple emergencies at the hospital where she works; and Uncle Jimmy shows up at 4:30 a.m. asking Alex and his sister to help clean out his bodega before looters cart off all his inventory. When reports of widespread disaster - tsunamis, flooding, earthquakes, etc. - reach his ears, Alex starts to worry. His mother still hasn't come home, his father's in Puerto Rico and his older brother is in Texas with his Marines unit. That leaves Alex to take care of his two younger sisters. Phone service is spotty, but surely his parents would have made it back home if they could. They can't really be gone, can they?

As the months drag on, Alex becomes increasingly worried. Not only have his parents not shown up, but the kids haven't received a letter, a phone call, anything. Food's running low, corpses are piling up, volcanic ash taints the air, and New York's becoming more dangerous by the minute. Despite his sister's devout faith, Alex is beginning to wonder if God and la madre even care. With flood waters rising, food disappearing, a flu epidemic raging, and no way out of the wasteland that is New York, Alex must fight for survival. He's determined to keep his sisters safe, even if it means starving himself, even if it means sending them away, even if it means killing himself to keep them alive. He'll do whatever it takes.

Like its predecessor, The Dead and the Gone starts out slowly and builds to a nail-biting, heart-pounding crescendo. The more perilous Alex's situation gets, the more riveting the story becomes. It didn't grab me quite as much as Life As We Knew It, maybe because it seemed redundant or maybe because The Morales' experience in a big city seemed less desperate than Miranda's plight in a small, isolated town. Still, it's an engrossing pageturner, as exciting as it is thought-provoking. Unlike the first book, this one explores themes of faith in the face of chaos; the influence of wealth and power in a catastrophic situation; and the difference between givers and takers in a world gone mad. Like its companion book, The Dead & the Gone also looks at how quickly life can change; how ungrateful we are for the abundance we enjoy every day; and how little provocation it takes for us to revert to animal instincts, erasing every gentle trait that makes us human.

Like I said before, if you think the world's bleak enough as it is, you might want to skip this series. If you're not the depressive sort, or if you happen to have an extra supply of Prozac on hand, give these books a whirl. This glass-half-full girl just can't get enough!

(Readalikes: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer; The Gone series by Michael Grant)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for mild language, mild sexual innuendo and scenes of death/destruction

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

5 comments:

  1. This sounds good and I need a New York read for a challenge. Thanks for the review!

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  2. This sounds like a terrific series. Thanks for the great review!

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  3. I just got this from the library --- SO I did not read this review and scrolled down to tell you I'll come back to ya' and read this in a few days!! I love your reviews but I do not want to know much more than I do right now.

    We need to sit down and have a serious plotting out of what we should read next and do it at the same time!

    Can't wait to get back and read this!

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  4. This sounds like an interesting series. I've added book 1 to my wishlist based on your reviews. Thanks!

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  5. This is the best series EVER!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU SOOO MUCH FOR SUGGESTING IT!!

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