Michael Grant‘s Gone reminded me of an old favorite from about fourth grade, The Girl Who Owned A City, because this, too, is a strange new world free of adults. In Grant’s novel, everyone aged fourteen and above in the town of Perdido Beach (which, aptly, as you will later see, means Lost Beach) vanishes suddenly, just, poof, dropping whatever they were doing, their suddenly abandoned cars crashing. All of the kids are left alone, and there is almost immediate chaos.
Somehow, after taking control in a dangerous situation, Sam becomes a leader of sorts, though he is challenged by local bullies. Sam, Astrid, Little Pete, Quinn, and Edilio work together to survive inside what they discover is a ten-mile radius around the nuclear power plant that is bounded by a barrier they cannot see any end to, see through, or even touch without feeling quite a bit of pain.
That’s not the only strange thing, though. There are talking coyotes, seagulls with talons, and snakes with wings. Mutants–but not the only mutants around. Some of the kids may not be exactly normal themselves…
After a few days, the rich, troubled kids from Coates, a boarding school outside of town, come in and take control of the situation. At first, Sam might be glad to be relieved of the pressure of being the leader, but something is seriously wrong with the situation, and by the time he comes to realize it, it might be too late to save himself and the rest of the kids–especially if, as the others who turned fourteen have done, he vanishes on his birthday, which is a scant few days away.
Gone is a huge book, over 550 pages, but the time passed so quickly while I was reading it, and I just couldn’t put it down! Last night, taking a break from my history homework, I picked it up, intending to read a chapter or two and then get my brain back on track. Instead, I read two hundred pages. That’s how absolutely engrossing this book is! And as for the writing? The book is so fast-paced, and I don’t even need to add this qualifier to that statement: “for a 550 page book that takes place over the course of only a handful of days,” even though it’s true. I didn’t even notice the writing, except for a few mistakes that I’m sure will be corrected in the finished book (I read an ARC), so it flowed well.
For the most part, I quite enjoyed the characters, although they were a bit simplified for my taste–psychotic bully, leader who can do very little wrong, saintly girl caring for small children (although she did have issues of her own), etc. I also thought that the characters sometimes acted older than they were supposed to be (thirteen, for most of the main characters), but I guess that being stuck in that situation would make them grow up fast, out of necessity. Still, though, it bothered me a couple of times. And those cover models don’t look like thirteen-year-olds, either, do they?
Now, this is not a literary masterpiece or anything, but it’s certainly worth reading, especially for fans of apocalyptic sci-fi, or Lord of the Flies. Which, actually, I hated, but they both have groups of kids fending for themselves. Also, heads are smashed in both, and there are warring factions. Anyway, I certainly enjoyed the characters in this book, and the premise, but really, the best part was how it was just a pleasure to read, absent of any brain-rotting quality. Not to say that it was a difficult book, but it was for reasonably intelligent readers, even if they are reluctant to pick up a giant book, as many are, and actually helped me once on FreeRice (where my highest vocab level is now a 47!).
The ending disappointed me, though. Certainly, there was some semblance of an ending (that is, it didn’t just randomly stop), but absolutely no questions were answered, and the central dilemma of being stuck in the FAYZ was in no way resolved. I would imagine there is a sequel on the way, in which case this is annoying but forgivable, especially if the sequel is good, but if there is no sequel it is an absolute disaster. However, unless something dreadful happens to Michael Grant or HarperCollins, there’s got to be a sequel, with the way this ended. And I’ll definitely be reading it!
*Edits for those who don’t read the comments: This will be a six-part series, coming out every summer, so look forward to that! The characters’ ages have been changed to fourteen, so my comments about them acting too old are negated (even though it’s just one year, I feel like it makes a big difference).