Author: Michael Grant
Publisher: Electric Monkey (an imprint of Egmont UK Limited)
Adults disappear. Kids develop powers. A dome cages them in and beneath the surface, a dark beast lurks, biding its time.
I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong Michael Grant to and Electric Monkey.
Excerpt taken from Page 3:
“ONE MINUTE THE teacher was talking about the Civil War.
And the next minute he was gone.
No ‘poof’. No flash of light. No explosion.
Sam Temple was sitting in third-period history class staring blankly at the blackboard, but far away in his head. In his head, he was down at the beach, he and Quinn. Down at the beach with their boards, yelling, bracing for that first plunge into cold Pacific water.
For a moment, he thought he had imagined it, the teacher disappearing. For a moment, he thought he’d slipped into a daydream.
Sam turned to Mary Terrafino, who sat just to his left. ‘You saw that, right?'”
The narration in this novel is on-point throughout. The narrative style is third-person, allowing us an insight into the lives of many of the Perdido Beach and Coates inhabitants, while centring around more crucial characters like Sam, Caine and Drake. Grant builds up an interlinking story arc with various different characters that builds a foundation for the plot, setting up the obstacles and events to come. He deliberately builds up the dramatic tension and leaves you on somewhat of a cliff-hanger as to what the fate of the character is, what they might have discovered, what they are about to do or simply leave you excited and wanting to find out what happens next when they make a defining choice that will change the course of the novel. The descriptions and observations are also sensory, unlike some YA novels that become over-reliant on observation alone. Grant dramatises many of the facts instead of stating them too which makes for a more interesting read. For example, we know from the dialogue between Lana and her grandfather that he is 75 (or 76). We can piece that information together ourselves. As readers, we aren’t being spoon-fed. There are places though, where I feel as though Grant tells us about the character’s background or what they are thinking where he could possibly have found ways to dramatise this information, either in actions or dialogue.
At times, there is a little excessive detail though, more so in the description of the dialogue. Telling us that Astrid berates herself when we already know it, both given the situation and her words. It also feels as though there is a lapse in the narrative voice in places:
“They veered towards it. There might be food or water or shelter.”
Otherwise, the narrative is seamless and though some might argue that Grant focuses on too many characters’ viewpoints, I would argue the opposite. Yes, there is a lot to process but Grant’s sharp delivery of the prose and the fast pace of the plot make it easy to absorb the information.
Grant’s characterisation really is one of the strongest points of his writing. It’s not just a case of black-and-white with each character. There are psychological complexities that mirror people in everyday life. It’s not a case of: “he’s evil” or “she’s good” and that’s it. Grant takes us on a rollercoaster journey with each character. The characters change, develop and adapt in their new environment. Diana is, for me, one of the most interesting characters. She’s manipulative and crafty; a perfect combination of beauty and sarcasm who does whatever she has to, to survive. It’s a game of “survival of the fittest” and Diana is in it for herself. Sam is an interesting choice as the hero – the protagonist – of the story. He makes mistakes. He has blood on his hands. He’s not the ideal hero and yet, he is hope personified for the kids at Perdido Beach. He is what they need; what they invest in; who they turn to. And his guilt is captured brilliantly throughout.
The plot is pretty simply until you look beyond what is happening and ask why it is happening. Kids start to develop abilities. A dome covers Perdido Beach and Coates Academy. Kids over the age of 15 disappear. And kids that turn 15 in the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) still continue to disappear. But why is it all happening? And Grant doesn’t offer us half-baked, convoluted reasoning. He reveals tidbits – tasters even – throughout the story, a little at a time, until we gradually build up a picture of what has happened, what is happening and why it is happening. There are plenty of obstacles, action scenes, humour and new developments that alter the course of the journey dramatically.
We get a detailed description of where everything is and what the buildings look like. There’s also a map supplied though there’s enough in the text to anchor the landmarks – the Nuclear Plant, Coates, the Mine Shaft and so on – in our minds. There’s not much more to say. The setting is interwoven with the fast-paced plot so that the delivery of the descriptive details doesn’t pull us out of the world Grant has created.
The story is, in some sense, a re-working of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. It follows the same basic idea. The kids are stranded on a deserted island and left to fend for themselves. Cue the power struggle before the adults come to rescue the kids. Gone works on a similar plot structure. What differentiates it from Golding’s work is it’s unique evolution of the landscape, the kids themselves and the mystery and menace that lurks behind the scenes. The story is complex with an overarching narrative that encompasses many of the characters. It breaks down characters, that could potentially turn out one-dimensional, and shows the complexities and, in some cases, the psychological processes behind their decisions.
Great characters. Fantastic world-building. Actioned-packed, twist-and-turns plot. A must read.
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