Here’s how I see it. These days the life expectancy for women is somewhere around 86, which means I’m only a little less than a third done with my life, which means I still have two-thirds of said life to live as a full-on responsibility-having adult. Which means it would be fair, considering the math, to at this point in time consider myself a young adult, relatively speaking. Which means, as you may all be guessing by now, one very important thing: It’s totally okay that I keep reading all these novels intended for 13-year-olds.
My younger sister turned me on to the latest in my YA addiction: The Gone series, by Michael Grant. There are six books in the series, five of which are published (the sixth is due out next year) and two of which I’ve now finished. Since I value you people’s time (and it would be difficult to review later books in the series without giving away spoilers) I’ll kind of review the whole concept here, rather than in six separate posts. Also because I’m lazy.
There’s a lot going on in the Gone books, but here are the things you need to know:
- When the first book opens, we’re in a public school in Perdido Beach, a small town in California. Suddenly, and without preamble, all of the school’s teachers, and everyone else over the age of 15, disappears. We eventually learn that this has happened in the entire town.
- Whether or not this phenomenon has also occurred in the entire state, country, or planet, we don’t know. Because in addition to the disappearance of all adults, a semi-transparent (but dangerous to the touch) barrier has appeared around the entire town. Nothing will break through it.
- Disconcerted by the chaos, many kids congregate in the center of town. Someone comes up with calling the new boundaries the “FAYZ,” which stands for Fallout Alley Youth Zone. The name sticks.
- A day or so post-FAYZ, several cars arrive in the town square, driven by students from the nearby Coates Academy, a private school for smart kids with disciplinary problems. Caine, a handsome and intimidating 14-year-old, announces to the crowd that he would like to form a committee to run things in the absence of adults.
- From the Perdido Beach crowd, many kids nominate 14-year-old Sam for a position of leadership. Once, years ago, Sam prevented a school bus accident that would have killed everyone on board.
- Sam, Caine and a smattering of other main characters grapple with the complexity of running a town where the oldest person is 14, and where it would seem a whole lot of truly bizarre shit is going down.
If you’re not at least mildly intrigued by now, well then I don’t understand you and please stop reading my blog (just kidding! Don’t stop. Never stop.) I’ve only finished the second book and already there’s a lot I’m not mentioning, in part because I don’t want to give everything away, and in part because, again, lazy.
Suffice it to say that the Gone series, perhaps by virtue of being a series, touches on pretty much everything you might expect in a post-apocalyptic adult-less world: rivalries, competition, chaos, mob mentality, hunger, and so on. Add to that a bunch o’ supernatural forces, and you really come away with an all-encompassing work of socio-political science fiction. You know, for teenagers.
The similarities between Gone and its predecessors is clear: It’s part Under the Dome (really part Stephen King in general), part Lord of the Flies, and part X-Men. But their lack of objective ingenuity doesn’t really lessen the books’ appeal. Further, Grant manages to preserve a level of suspense that has impressed me so far. I never know entirely what to expect, even though it would seem I’ve read books like this before.
I do wonder whether young adult novels of this caliber existed when I was a teenager—they must have, right?—or if the blockbuster success of series like Twilight and The Hunger Games has created a new opportunity for teen writers who were maybe never getting the attention they deserved. While it’s true that Lord of the Flies—the grandfather of cynical tween literature—is a classic, that book still seems to be considered an “assignment,” somewhere on a young adult’s preferred reading list between “physics homework” and “Facebook News Feed.”
Perhaps I was too bogged down in the relatively narrow reading choices of my 13-year-old self—Fear Street, Stephen King, Dean Koontz—to realize that there was an entire universe of commendable YA fiction; or perhaps that universe had yet to exist, or expand. But I’m not going to let a pesky little thing like my age keep me from the fiction of the youths. After all, I read all three Fifty Shades of Grey books. I have no dignity to lose.
AUTHOR: Michael Grant
ALSO WROTE: The rest of the Gone series
SORTA LIKE: Lord of the Flies meets X Men meets Under the Dome meets Desperation
FIRST LINE: “One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone.”