Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gone - Michael Grant

Title: Gone
Author: Michael Grant
Publisher: Harper Teen, 2009 (Paperback)
Length: 553 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian, Science Fiction
Started: April 29, 2010
Finished: May 5, 2010

From the publisher's website:

In the blink of an eye.
Everyone disappears.

Except for the young. Teens. Middle Schoolers. Toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. And just as suddenly there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to figure out what's happened. And no way to get help.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your 15th birthday, you will disappear just like everyone else.

I went to a Harper Collins preview night for new teen releases just last week, so a lot of the stuff I'll be reviewing in the next month or so will be Harper Teen titles. This is Book 1 of a planned 6 book series, book 3 just came out as well, so it'll be a long one, but I don't think that'll be a problem for me. I loved this book, not only because I love dystopian fiction, but because this is The Lord of the Flies updated and modernized...with some X-Men influences thrown in. Sam and Quinn are buddies living in Perdido Beach, a small coastal California town, and one day in the middle of History class, their teacher disappears, poof! They meet up with their friend AStrid in another classroom and she confirms that her teacher and a few of her classmates disappeared as well. The children remaining in the school eventually figure out that every person over the age of 14 is gone, and that there's a dome-like barrier enclosing a 20 mile radius centering on the nearby nuclear power plant, what they suspect is the cause of the situation. To make matters worse, the kids discover that some of their peers possess psychic powers: Sam can make light shoot from his hands, and Astrid's autistic little brother can do a number of things including telekinesis. Just as things are getting chaotic, students from the nearby Coates Academy private school come into town wanting to join together as a society, with a boy named Caine posing as a leader. Of course, absolute power corrupts absolutely, so Caine and company end up being purely twisted and Sam and company end up in a power struggle to keep everyone alive.

The story is fast-paced and never boring, the writing is witty with modern teen/pre-teen dialogue, and there's a delightfully twisted aspect because the kids are completely cruel to each other. If you thought The Lord of the Flies was shocking in terms of violence and cruelty, the book makes The Lord of the Flies look like a kindergarten teacher in a Christmas sweater. The kids in Gone aren't savagely cruel like the boys in The Lord of the Flies, but in a more modern warfare type of cruel. Instead of dropping rocks on people, The kids in Gone encase kids' hands in cement to prevent them from using their powers, and send a pack of wild talking coyotes to attack a daycare centre full of children. As soon as I read this, the first thing I thought of was that this could replace The Lord of The Flies in schools as a more modern choice that appeals to kids. The themes of the "dark heart of man" are the same, and the circumstances are eerily similar, just with some supernatural influence added. Although I appreciated The Lord of the Flies in terms of themes, I hated the story, and I know a lot of my students feel the same way; but I could definitely see kids getting into the story in Gone.

A modern Lord of the Flies (but better!) A different type of dystopian story similar to Garth Nix's "Shade's Children". Read this, you'll love it!

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the focus on two characters on the front with another two on the back. Sam and Astrid look like they're supposed to (though Astrid's lipstick colour bothers me for some reason), as well as Caine and Diana on the back. I love how stunned Sam and Astrid look and how nasty Caine and Diana look. The covers look like they keep this theme with the next volumes, Book 2 has Caine and Diana on the front with Sam and Astrid on the back.

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