Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The One Where My SBP Love Takes a Bit of a Hit

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Shade of the Moon, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Last Survivors books.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Four years after an asteroid smacks into the moon, leading to Earth-wide death and devastation, Jon Evans (Miranda's younger brother) is living the good life.  Well, as good as it gets in a ruined world.  The 17-year-old is a "clave," one of the lucky people chosen to live inside Sexton, a protected enclave in Tennessee.  As long as Jon continues to shine on the soccer field, he's guaranteed food, shelter and safety for himself, his stepmother and his young stepbrother Gabe.  One wrong move, though, and he's out.  If he steps out of line, he'll become just another "grub" eking out a meager survival outside the enclave.  Still haunted by the horrific deaths of people he loved, Jon can't help feeling guilty—not just for surviving when so many others perished, but for all his family sacrificed in order for him to live.  He can't screw up this opportunity to make something of himself.

When Sarah Goldman—an outspoken teenager from Connecticut—moves into Sexton, Jon finds himself fascinated by her passion for equal rights.  Sympathizing with grubs is a good way to get herself kicked out of the enclave.  Jon knows he should stay away from subversives like her, but he can't.  With Sarah's voice echoing in his head, he starts to see his protected life in a whole new light.  How can he justify feeling safe and sated, when his own family, the very people who sacrificed their own lives to ensure his survival, struggle for every bite of food they can find outside the enclave?  How can he play soccer, of all things, while they suffer?  Is Jon better than the grubs because he's an athlete?  And is he willing to risk his own safety to help those less fortunate?  As the pressure mounts, Jon must decide—once and for all—who he is and what he stands for in this mad new world.

YA author Susan Beth Pfeffer never intended to write a fourth book in her popular Last Survivors series.  But, her fans (including me) begged for another book.  So, she wrote one.  I've been eager to read The Shade of the Moon ever since I heard about its impending creation and maybe, just maybe, I was expecting way too much from it.  Because, truth is, as much as I enjoyed the rest of the books in this series, I wasn't wild about this last installment.  Why?  It had a lot to do with Jon, who's just not a very sympathetic character.  Also, his insta-love with Sarah got annoying; the story lacks a lot in the plot department; the writing's choppy; and subtlety is just not one of this novel's strengths.  The Shade of the Moon is a tense, conflict-filled page-turner, yes, it's just not nearly as compelling or well-crafted as the previous books in this series.  Am I disappointed because I expected way too much from this novel?  Probably.  And, yet, it really isn't as good as its predecessors, so I'm feeling totally justified here ... I still love SBP for her sense of humor (her blog's hilarious) and her loyalty to her fans, but dang it, I wanted a lot more from this book.  Ah, well.  Life goes on, doesn't it?

(Readalikes:  The previous books in this series [Life As We Knew It; The Dead and the Gone; This World We Live In])

Grade: 


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, sexual innuendo/content and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Shade of the Moon from the generous folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Thank you!

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