Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Gone- Michael Grant

'Gone' was another of the trio of books I bought with my incredible stash of birthday Waterstones gift cards, after having a long and excited conversation with the book store lady. (I often have conversations with book store ladies... in fact, I often have conversations with my elevator buddies, the people I sit next to on airplanes, and random eleven year olds I happen to be standing next to in the cafeteria queue.) I asked for the book store lady's current SF/F recommendations, and she pointed to 'Gone.'

'It's very Lord of the Flies,' she said, 'but with mutants.'

Now, if I had zoned out on 'Lord of the Flies' I promptly zoned back in on 'mutants'. I have been, in a former life, a crazy x-men fan associated with all sorts of fanfiction, daydreaming, and an uncanny ability to recite the names, code names and powers of the entire cast of 'X-Men: Evolution.' In fact, I still watch 'Wolverine and the X-Men' when it comes on, and went a little nuts when the Origins movie came out. (That may have had less to do with X-Men and more to do with a combination of Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman.)

So, to get back to the review, as soon as I heard that mutants were involved, I snatched the book off of the shelf and scanned the blurb:

A small town in Southern California: In the blink of an eye everyone over the age of 15 disappears and no one knows why. Cut off from the outside world, those that are left are trapped, and there's no help on the way. Chaos rules the streets. Gangs begin to form. Sides are chosen- strong or weak. Cruel or humane. A new world order is rising and, even scarier, some survivers have power- mutant power that no one has ever seen before...

I realized very quickly that I'd picked it up before, over summer, but had to put it back down in favor of the new Tamora Pierce release. (I didn't recognize it at first because it was wearing the rather bland cover below, which I like much less than the former one.) My Tamora Pierce obsession outweighs even my X-Men obsession, and sadly I couldn't have bought two hardbacks in one trip.

This time, however, my bookstore visit didn't coincide with a Pierce release (*sniff*) so I added it to my pile. I wasn't disappointed.

'Gone' has a spectacular premise and a great cast of characters that were well developed but acted quite out of character for their age. Although teens and preteens are certainly capable of extraordinary acts of violence, it's usually the product of significant abuse and poor upbringing. Most of these California kids seemed to have neither (though the sequels might prove me wrong) and so their behavior struck me as a little bit far-fetched. I also had a hard time believing that the protagonist, Sam, was only fourteen; I certainly wasn't as mature when I was his age, and to be perfectly honest, boys usually grow out of their silly phase much later than girls.

Another thing that bugged me a little was that pretty much all of the violence was done by the boys-- there was a villainess, but she was just conniving rather than violent. The mutant powers followed this pattern, too: super speed and variations on telepathy for the girls, energy beams and a kind of telekinesis for the boys. Again, the sequels may prove me wrong, but the mild feminist in me balked at that.

However, those were minor points that I honestly didn't consider much while I was caught up in the action-- and there's plenty of action to go around. That, combined with the hint of a romantic subplot truly cements Gone's power to bridge the gender gap, which is rare these days in YA fiction. I also loved the diverse cast of characters, from Astrid, the female lead, to her autistic brother Little Pete, and Albert, the boy who took charge of the local McDonald's. Their weaknesses were portrayed as well as their strengths, which made them all the more human. 

The little plot points that weren't tied up-- the identity of the darkness, what actually happens when they turn fifteen and poof out-- were of course annoying, but they were interesting enough that it really, really bugs me that I won't be able to get the sequels until I'm in England again. 

So, in short: action-packed, exciting, and thoroughly recommended.

Rating: 4/5



  1. Sounds like an interesting book with an interesting premise.

    Oh! Lale! Have you read my Flash Fiction Friday post yet? YOU'RE IN IT! ...And I took a little liberty with your claimed expertise in lasertag...hope you don't mind. ;)

  2. I just read it! And it was pretty side splitting. :)


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