Gone by Michael Grant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this book out of curiosity, with no preconceived notions. Merely because I was curious what kids would do in a world with no adults. I admit I was blown away.
Mr. Grant told me a story that I couldn't put down. From the beginning, my mind was full of questions about how this happened, how the kids would survive, what could prevent the same thing from happening again....So many questions.
Sam is the kind of boy you want to have around when the world goes crazy. He's definitely the reluctant hero type, but usually they come through for you like no other. Because they do what needs to be done, simply because it needs to happen. Not for glory, not for recognition. Sam doesn't want to be 'the guy', but he knows that no one else is going to do it. And when Caine and his posse come down from Coates Academy, taking over and making things mostly worse, someone has to step up to the plate to stop him.
This book is intense, violent, and sometimes sad. Some of these kids die. A lot of them get hurt pretty bad. I'm not a mother yet, but I love kids, and I hate to see them suffering. It was a bit painful to watch. Even harder was seeing the cruelty and potential for evil that some of these children showed. Drake, who is basically Caine's bully boy, is a psychopath. He loves hurting people, and he feels no remorse about doing it. In my mind, I was weighing the options, even thinking that they needed to kill him, because he was like a rabid animal, bent on destruction. I felt horrible doing that, but he's a loose cannon, and he's only going to get worse. I don't think saving this boy is an option.
One of the take home messages of this book is the consequences of a social structure that is pretty familiar to most of us. The dynamic that we see in a group of kids where there are bullies who find the 'weakest' people and torment then, doing everything they can to make life miserable for those kids. And this causes a lot of fallout, because people forget ethics and what's morally right so that they can have peace from the bullies. In essence, they become part of the problem, contributing to a micro-society in which children get hurt because everyone is afraid to speak up and stand up against the bullies and the ones who are 'running things' for their own twisted, self-absorbed reasons. It made me shudder to see what these children did to each other, because they thought it was the easiest option to keep control of things. I'll be honest. I was bullied and picked on big time. It made me hate seeing the so-called 'weak' or 'different' people get targeted and treated that way. I'm no fighter, but I made a promise that I'd stand up for someone who couldn't do that for his or herself. I was glad that the kids like Sam and Edilio (what a sweetheart) were more than willing to do that.
I had some issues with the decisions that were made by the kids. They had no real sanitation rules. They didn't use their resources effectively. They had very poor nutrition, unnecessarily, because there was a supermarket full of healthy things like fruits and vegetables, proteins, grains. They ate mostly junk like candy, ice cream, soda pop, you name it. I guess I was looking at things through 'grown-up' eyes, which did cause me some discomfort. I was glad that they did organize care for the babies and kids too young to watch out for themselves, because Mary and her brother took on that job. I was also glad that Dahra worked as the medical provider. Albert took over the McDonalds and provided food for the community. Even so, I see some problems ahead, unless the kids set up a civic structural system in which every person is accountable (over-thinking this, I know!).
I loved the relationship between Astrid and Sam. They had an innocent love but also a strong friendship and support system in which they watched out for each other and did what they could to help everyone through this situation. Astrid was the brain, very smart, but also very kind. She had to take care of her younger brother, who was autistic, and extremely gifted with powers. I'll get to the powers part later. Give me a minute. Not an easy task for a young girl, but she did it. I was rooting for things to work out for these two!
Another character who turned out to be a favorite was Lana. Lana is in a very bad position when the 'event' happens--the one in which all the people over fourteen disappear. She ends up getting horribly injured and is about to die, when her power to heal manifests. Oh, I was on the edge of my seat, seeing her stranded, wounded very badly, with only her dog to protect her from the wild animals in the desert. I was so glad that she was able to get out of that situation. Of course, she ends up in a worse situation that ties in with the kids in town, and in a big way, as this book culminates. It might seem like a deus ex-machina to have a character who can heal even the most grievous wounds, but I was glad that she did have the power. This kids have a lot stacked up against them already. They need all the advantages they can get.
Now, lets talk about the power. Some of the kids, Sam included, have supernatural abilities that start manifesting. I thought this part was very cool. How Caine approaches this, with his evil little posse' made my hair stand on end. I can't even conceive of children being as cruel as that lot were. The powers end up playing a pivotal role in this story, and I am sure that this will continue to be a very strong element in the forthcoming books. I liked the "X-Men" sort of element it brought to the story, and how kids that were often bullied and felt useless, got to play important roles in the fight against Caine and his Posse' of Evil.
I wanted to give the author a nod of thanks for making the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) a multicultural environment, with children of all races. Everyone is important, and it was nice to see that there was a rainbow represented here. That speaks highly to me!
If you're an adult and you don't think you could enjoy young adult books, this is one I'd recommend. If you're like me, you will be riveted to this exciting story. It has a lot to offer as far as entertainment, but also stimulates the brain, as you are confronted with this bad situation that this young kids have to face. I cannot stop reading these books. I'm way too invested now!
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