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Gone; A Series by Micheal Grant
For me, the Gone Series, by Micheal Grant, is something of a guilty pleasure. It is a book for teenagers, about teenagers, surviving in an extreme situation. And I do mean extreme. There are some pretty obvious echoes of Lord of the Flies, here, coupled with a (scientific? magical? extraterrestrial?) phenomenon that seems right out of a Stephen King novel. In fact, lets just make this easier and say that the six book series is pretty much what you would get if Lord of the Flies had been written by Stephen King.
In order to even attempt do these books justice in one review, I may have to stretch things out a bit. I will start by giving a basic rundown of the books, with the summary and a few likely themes. I will then discuss the pros and cons of the authors (Micheal Grant) writing style. Finally, I will tie all of that up to make a case for why these books should be read, by teenagers and young adults.
The covers may be a little over dramatic, and the teenagers on them are a tad too pretty. It is what is inside the books that counts, and for a dystopian young adult series, the Gone books are complex in a way that is awesome and incredibly frightening at times. I'm going to start out by asking readers of this hub to imagine, for a second, that they are fourteen years old, with all of the drama that comes with being a fourteen year old. Now imagine that the adult person in front of you just vanishes, into thin air, quite suddenly. Hence, the title of these books. For this is what happens to Sam Temple, Astrid Ellison, Edilio Escobar, Lana Lazar and every other kid in the small California town of Perdido Beach. Every single person over the age of fourteen has suddenly ceased to exist (or so it would seem).
There are many angles to these books, and each book has a unique subplot. In book one,we are introduced to a myriad number of characters and viewpoints. Starting out in Perdido Beach, Sam Temple and a small group of companions, Astrid Ellison, Quinn Gaither and Edilio Escobar, go searching for Astrid's little brother, Pete. Pete (affectionately called "little Pete by his sister) is severely autistic and was last with one of their parents. They find him inside the nuclear power plant where their, and most other families, father worked. (The power plant, and Pete's presence there, is significant.) And then the group discovers two unnerving facts; One is that the entire town has been surrounded by a giant dome, a hundred miles in diameter. The other is that both Sam and Pete have superpowers. (Also significant.)
Upon their return to the town, the kids from the nearby Coates Academy show up in some style. Their leader is Cain Soren, and he, too, among many others, has been blessed with the ability to do extraordinary things. Cain convinces the "townies" that they and the rich, troubled, bad reputation kids from Coates should put their differences aside and work together for the good of general society. The trouble is, these kids have a bad reputation for a reason; among their number is a manipulative conniver named Diana, a bullied week willed computer nerd, Jack, and, of course, Drake, the psychopath. Cain puts his plan into awful effect, and things come to a head when one girl is effectively murdered by Cain's thugs.
As all of this is occurring, another character, Lana Arwen Lazaar, has been wandering around from the ruins of her grandfathers truck, into the desert, looking for water, and help. Along the way, she discovers an evil presence buried in an old mine...
That is the basic plot of the story, from which the events throughout the series unfold. The plot may be dramatic, superficial and hard to believe, especially in summary. But Grant makes it believable through his characters. There are quite a few of them, but Grant has taken the time to flesh out each individual of importance, and, good or bad, when we see events unfold from their perspective, we feel for them. We want them to win, to do well, and to survive. We grieve when they do not.
For all of the Gone's charms, its unpredictability is one thing going against it. Sure, no one wants to read a predictable work, and this series is anything but predictable (here's a hint, if you decide to read, do not assume anything, or you will be sorry). But there are many times when the stories unpredictability works against it. Grant has admitted that he prefers to write on impulse, and has several times added new plot lines on a whim. This shows throughout the course of his novels; plot deviations are made, and some characters behave uncharacteristically.
The dialogue also suffers, occasionally. Teenagers speak to each other at times as if they were adults, and it is hard to believe that hundreds of adolescents who suddenly find themselves in a giant bubble, separated from adults and authority of any kind, would refrain from using swear words. Yet, they don't swear, ever. That is one of the few areas of the book that are not believable, no matter how you look at it.
But these are good books. They are easy to read, are action packed, and suspenseful, which makes them an excellent choice for young reluctant readers. Furthermore, the series deals with themes discussing the importance of friendship, loyalty, conflict and the mantle and difficulties of leadership. Most teens will notice the allusions to certain hate groups within this series, and the resultant damage that such groups can do when left unadressed.
So, should you read Gone? That depends on whether or not you want to suspend your belief for a few hours. Should your teenager read Gone? Definitely worth a shot, especially if they enjoyed The Hunger Games. The Gone Series has its literary flaws, and it is certainly no masterpiece, but it does evoke emotions, and fertilizes the imagination.