Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Y/A “horror”
Recommend for: 15 and older, girls and boys
My Rating: 9/10
“In the blink of an eye.
Everyone except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Gone, too, are the phones, internet, and television. There is 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 and war is imminent.”
“Gone” is the first installment in the “GONE” series by American young adult author Michael Grant. There are two more publications in the series “Hunger” and “Lies,” while the fourth book “Plague,” is scheduled for release in April of this year. The novel is about a 570 pages long, but fairly light to read. “Gone” is categorized as a Young Adult novel, but is suitable for girls and boys, teens and older. Even though the main characters of the book are all around the age of 14, the novel offers a very interesting and philosophical perspective on a world with no adults, as the story is narrated from a third person point of narration.
The novel is set in Fallout Valley, California, USA, in the 21st century, where the characters of the book are all trapped under a dome with a diameter of 20 miles. Ocean, desert, mountains and forests occupy most of this area, while the center of attention and the center of civilization is the small Perdido Beach. Here the kids roam around in vandalized grocery stores, abandoned churches and chaotic squares. The kids name their new home the “FAYZ”, spelled F – A – Y – Z, Fallout Valley Youth Zone.
The story of “GONE” begins in a classroom setting when all of a sudden the teacher disappears. After a few bewildered moments, it is clear that all the teachers, all the grown-ups, and all the students, 15 years and older, are gone. Left to fend for themselves are the babies, toddlers and kids that have not yet turned 15. Not only is every single adult in the entire Fallout Valley gone, but also a massive dome traps the children in the area of the valley. In a society much like an anarchy – with no set authority, the power is left to seize for whoever wants it. The children in Perdido Beach, wishes for Sam Temple to take charge, but as a shy boy, he withdraws from any kind of attention, and is not ready for such responsibility. As to be expected in anarchy, if the good guys don’t assume power fast enough – the bullies will do it. The FAYZ becomes a warzone; the good guys fighting the bullies, with the rest of the kids being forced into choosing sides.
Caine and his crew from the private school, Coates Academy, becomes the face of evil within the FAYZ – facing Sam and his friends in countless confrontations and even battles. As the FAYZ goes on, several of the kids start developing unimaginable powers and abilities, adding excitement and unpredictability to the situation under the dome. Though this is only the first book in the GONE series, it works great as a stand-alone with a somewhat open ending. The main conflict of this book, is the politics of the situation; finding someone to rule and a good way to do it. The second book deals with food shortage, the third one with the drama developing between the teenagers while the fourth and currently last book deals with what happens when all hell breaks loose at once.
“Gone” demonstrates a lot of important issues in practice – such as anarchy, good vs. bad and the nature of mankind. The kids are challenged by their surroundings, and the book follows those kids who make the right decisions, as well as those who make the wrong ones. Through the actions and emotions of the characters, the reader is made aware of the importance in being brave and doing the right thing. Also, the book shows how not all brave choices are the right choices. The story is not at all cliché, and not all the “good” characters have the happiest endings. Doing the right thing is however highly valued and honored in this novel.
In addition to presenting great values about right and wrong, the book demonstrates one theory of how a society in full anarchy would work. Though even in this situation power is assumed by those lusting for it, the society in Fallout Valley works much without one single or supreme authority. The kids in Perdido Beach follow nothing but their own instinct, and without any grown-ups to tell them what to do, their actions present a really interesting idea. Even though the people put in this situation – in the FAYZ – are all children, they are mere images of what adults could act like in a similar situation. Stripped down to nothing but themselves, with no set rules, boundaries or support systems, the fact that the characters are children becomes insignificant in comparing them to how older people could react in said situation.
The book also talks about discrimination in a twisted fantasy way, and puts strong emphasis on the importance in not judging people by what they look like, but appreciate them for who they are as a character and as an individual. With some characters possessing physical abilities breaking the laws of physics, some lack intellectual abilities, while others lack social abilities. The book deals with finding the value of your personality and not your traits, as well as seeing the good in other people.
The book also touches on the very popular issue of Nature vs. Nurture. As Caine – the pack leader of the kids from the Coates Academy – and Sam discovers that they are in fact biological twins, raising questions why they turned out to be so different, or if they really are that different after all.
Along with “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold – now a major motion picture – this was definitely my favorite book that I read in 2010. I would definitely recommend it to anyone about 14 years and older, and I really genuinely believe readers of all ages would find something interesting and appealing about this story. Michael Grant is truly an artist of words, and has a brave enough imagination to turn it into something beautiful, thrilling and daunting.