Gone: a book review by Jay Keen

Gone Written by Michael Grant

By: Jay Keen

When children think of a world without adults, they think of a utopia. Eating junk food and playing video games all day with no school to attend sounds fantastic. Most, however, do not think of the consequences to the lack of authority. Gone, the first book of the Gone Series, exploits the idea of a “kids rule” society. Michael Grant’s fast paced novel starts off with the instant disappearance of every person age 14 and older in the fictional town of Perdido Beach, California. While trying to make sense of this and the translucent dome covering a 20-mile distance around the town, a power struggle ensues between groups of children. Bullies intend to rule the town, while those led by Sam Temple, the protagonist, try to pursue order through reasoning. While the struggle is occurring, several areas of concern rise such as power forming in certain children, maintaining health, and what to do with the nuclear power plant on the other side of town. The novel deposits several emotions to the reader that would usually not be associated with each other in the same literary work. In one way, my response to the work is that an authoritative power such as a government or even adults are needed to develop a highly functioning society, especially towards the beginning as a prolonged power struggle continues to expand. In another response, I feel as if children have the power to grow up quickly, whether it is for the good of others or only for the good of themselves. Although these two contrast each other, Michael Grant does a fantastic job of pacing to divert possibly holes in theme. Pace is the most impressive part of this underrated young adult novel, as there is rarely a page turned that does not include a possible thought-evoking event. Although in most fast paced novels the reader does not have a chance to absorb the events occurring, Gone develops and ends characters, situations and events in such clarity and detail that everything is in sync from beginning to end.

Gone is one of the most complex young adult novels that can be remembered in Young Adult fiction. It goes through several backgrounds, develops roughly a dozen main characters with impressive detail and building intrigue, another dozen supporting characters to magnify the significance and likeability of the main characters, and a cliff hanging, open ended ending that will take your imagination through multiple scenarios. Michael Grant’s novel has had to fight for popularity with power-house series such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and every other James Patterson novel that has come out within the past ten years, and has therefore not gained any exposure to mainstream book reading. There have been many critics of the series believing that this novel is an X-Men rip off, only in a young adult version. This may be a fair assumption of the novel to those that have not read the book, but I firmly believe that this surpasses anything of a Marvel variety and into a new genre of young adult fiction.

The first book of Michael Grant’s first young adult fiction series grabs your attention the moment the reader realizes the children are on their own. Although this is much more of an action- adventure novel than anything else, Grant adds a level of mystery, horror, and even romance as the novel goes from chapter to chapter. Grant’s characters develop much definition throughout the story, whether it be Sam Temple’s heroic bravery, Astrid Ellison’s genius and attempt to prove what is essentially improvable, Caine’s outer charm and inner desire for power, Diana’s sarcastic jeering and supercilious personality and Drake’s ruthlessness and the same desire for power as Caine.

These characters alone personify the book as these thirteen and fourteen year old children seemingly replace authoritative figures and primitively take on the duties of the adults before them. As some attempt to keep their teenaged society at ease and make sure the younger children are kept healthy and in order, others attempt to gain power throughout the dome using violence and manipulation.

Although there are many things to like about the first book of the Gone series, the novel has its flaws. For one, the novel depicts a surplus of adolescent violence. The only piece of mainstream literature that has come close to this type of violence is Children of the Corn and Red Dawn. This aspect of the book has been panned by critics for being overly graphic and disturbing. Another central theme in the story that has been looked upon as distasteful by a fraction of critics is the race for survival by the children in the book. Through disease, hunger, and dark lack of respect for life, these children go through extreme methods to make the current situation they are in as comfortable as possible.

Stephen King, one of the best authors of our generation and author of many books that have influenced the young adult/action-adventure genre, has endorsed Gone. He states,“… These are exciting, high tension stories told in a driving, torrential narrative that never lets up. There are monsters, there are kids with mad-crazy super powers, there’s the mystery where of where all the adults went. Most of all, there are children I can believe in and root for… I love these books.” Although there are some faults, this time next year this book and the corresponding series will be on track to being as big as J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

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