The last time I went to the mall, I stopped by the bookstore not intending to buy anything. I figured I’d just pass the time and browse while my husband spent his usual half an hour drooling over the latest gadgets in the Apple store. When I saw Gone, however, something just spoke to me, and I knew I had to buy it.
I am so, so glad that I did. The characters are well developed and the plot perfectly paced. Best of all, the book is convincing.
If you read my review of Midnight City, you’ll recall that I found the book’s adult-less, kid-run world a bit too PG to be realistic. That is definitely not the case in Gone. As many other reviewers have pointed out, Gone has a distinct Lord of the Flies feel, in which the basest, most dangerous side of humanity is revealed as children fight for survival.
After parents, teachers, law enforcement, and everyone else over the age of 15 disappear, the youth of San Perdido, California, are left to fend for themselves. Some of them rise to the occasion and try to make the best of the situation, caring for newly orphaned toddlers and sending search parties to collect first aid kits, food, and other necessities. Others, however, are not so noble, and raids, looting, and aggression reign. There’s a decent amount of violence and also a good measure of creepiness, especially after the animals – and humans – of San Perdido begin to mutate.
Also contributing to Gone’s believability is that the fact that it is multi-dimensional. There isn’t one villain against whom the hero and his friends are fighting; there are several, and they are all vying for power and survival in a world where the old rules no longer apply. Just when you think you have a feel for someone’s allegiance, the plot shifts, and you realize that the situation is much more complicated and dynamic than you previously thought. There are so many variables at play that you never know what to expect and are kept on the edge of your seat.
Another element that makes this novel so fantastic is that it is smart. As I read, there were no moments that made me roll my eyes in frustration, as many creepy movies make me do. I never felt the urge to yell, “Don’t do it, you moron, it’s a trap!” or “Why are you going in there? It’s obvious that so-and-so is really in the hotel!” It was very refreshing to read a book about characters who think logically and actually use their brains.
Speaking of characters, let’s discuss the book’s cast. I was a little concerned that reading a book in which the main characters are 14-year-olds would be disappointingly censored and watered down, but while it’s true that there are almost no curse words in Gone, and very little in the way of physical romance, the characters still manage to be gritty and real. They may be young, but they’re desperate, resourceful, and clever, and this causes some crazy stuff to happen. Neither “good” nor “bad” characters are simple tropes, and I can honestly say that every single character is unique and well developed. I was fascinated by each and every one of them, and I can’t wait to read more about what makes them tick in the rest of Michael Grant’s books.