Number 96: Gone

Guy: what are we looking at? Girl: shut up, I'm concentrating.

Guy: what are we looking at?
Girl: shut up, I’m concentrating.

Gone is the first book in what is so far a six book series.  It is written by Michael Grant, born 1954.  This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and after looking at the rest of the titles for his other books it seems as though he is comfortable writing apocalyptic type fantasy, which is what Gone is.

So, where should I start?  I guess I’ll start with the good, because you know I’m going to have plenty of complaints.  For starters, this book is really creative, if not a bit overloaded.  If you want a quick description of this book I would say it is a mixture of Left Behind, Under the Dome, Lord of the Flies, X-Men, and with classic YA themes mixed in.  There are themes of morality, responsibility, growing up, trust, and love.  It asks the question, what would happen if all of the adults disappeared and left only kids under the age of 15 to fend for themselves?

It is obvious that there is so much more to this world that Grant hasn’t even touched on.  He grips you with several different plot points throughout the book and enters into several different POV characters to get a mixture of feelings and observations about the world.  It is an interesting idea and both male and female characters are strong and different.

Alright, now that that’s over.  The book does have several plot points that grab your attention, the problem is they tie up quickly and you’re left trying to keep reading for the next plot threads to begin.  I was about ¼ of the way through the book and I began to wonder how the author could have so much left of the book (558 pages in all).  There are quite a bit of action sequences that essentially don’t really matter, and quite a bit of filler.  All in all, I was quite bored with the book, despite there being so much to offer.

It was a bit overrun with ideas.  A lot of them were cool but some were just tragic.  Since all of the adults disappeared this left infants in their homes with no one to take care of them, and 14 year olds don’t think to take care of babies, so the babies died.  Also, Grant seems to think that as soon as the adults disappear kids will just start murdering each other.  I understand that a couple of these kids are bullies, but that doesn’t mean they are just itching to commit murder and the only thing stopping them was  the adults.  It’s not just one kid either, nearly half the town is full of kids that just want to tear shit up and beat the hell out of others.  Also, the main bad guys were the typical cliché bad guys of those 80’s actions films.  They are just menacing to be menacing and evil because they want to be evil.  But this trope doesn’t seem to work when it is a 14 year old kid, let alone three or four of them in the same story.

Also, the characters seemed to jump to conclusions, and then those conclusions became fact.  Once all of the adults disappeared, it took all but 5 pages for someone to say, “only people under the age of 15 are still around.”  This was decidedly fact, even though they hadn’t left the school yet and it was really only the first suggestion.  Also, two of the characters happen to have the same birthday, and since they have the same birthday they decide that they are brothers.  This does happen to be true, I guess, but why the hell would they jump to that conclusion?  They had no mention of the other as they grew up and just because they have the same birthday they are brothers?  It was stupid.

Another thing that was off about these 14 year old kids (there are kids younger, but the main characters seemed to all be 14) was that they all acted like adults.  Their actions and motives were adult like.  The bad guys manipulated like adults and the good guys took on responsibility like adults. But, their sexual thoughts never went past kissing.  When I was 14 the only thing I thought about was sex.  Kissing too, obviously, but it went further in my head than kissing, and I went further in real life than kissing.  I can’t imagine what I would have been up to if no parents were around and the world was ending and I was having to act like an adult anyway.  But, in the book it was just innocent flirting and thoughts and talk of kissing.  It was like, Hey, let’s put this dead neglected baby in a trash bag, bury it, then form an army and after a long day of fighting and burying and drinking alcohol, maybe I’ll peck my maybe girlfriend on the cheek.

Which brings me to my next point.  The events in this book were depressingly sad.  Dead babies and toddlers with no one to defend them.  A ruler who is having people killed if they don’t listen.  A dwindling food supply.  No parents and essentially chaos and confusion from everywhere, but there is still cutesy flirting between characters and little wise ass jokes that seemed to just miss the mark because they were mistimed following something like putting babies in trash bags.

Something that is starting to become a trope in these YA books is that if there is a fight at the end of the book, the good guy will not kill the bad guy.  It doesn’t matter how evil the bad guy is or how dangerous it will be to leave him alive, the good guy will not kill him.  Even if the good guy has killed others in the book before this final showdown.  It’s just frustrating, and I think it’s only because it is YA…so I wander if the bad guy from this book will be back in the second…

I think maybe I would have enjoyed this book so much more if I were younger, but really this book seems to have just tried to shove into it everything that YA readers expect to read.  I think this book was too long, which made it boring.  If it were shorter with less going on, then maybe it would have been better and the author would have been able to stretch his series into even more books.  I, however, will not be reading the rest of this series.  There are a lot of unanswered questions, but I know that I’ll have to get through the YA angsty drivel in order to get to those answers, and it’s just not worth it.

Wife: meh, don’t waste your time.

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