Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers about the plotlines, I have marked where the spoilers will appear in bold
I just finished reading the Gone series by Micheal Grant. If you have not read the book series be prepared for a very interesting ride.
Initially, I was debating on committing to the large Young Adult series, but I am certainly happy I gave it a chance. My scepticism came from the simple fact that I find Sci-Fi novels are too long. This comes from someone who loves books, but for me, Sci-Fi can be over complicated, and sometimes dragged out unnecessarily. If I start a book series I must finish it, as a result, it becomes a real chore to finish certain Sci-Fi book series. I won’t bother naming these particular book series as I tend to only focus on books I like. Thankfully, the Gone series struck me as a new breed of YA science fiction.
When I began reading the first book entitled Gone I was absolutely hooked. It became my own delightful adventure into the macabre world run only by teenagers and children. The plot seems almost simplistic, to begin with.
A small California town by the name Perdido Beach is suddenly thrust into chaos when all the adults disappear. Now everyone under the age of 15 is alone in a strange new world left to fend for themselves. Things take a strange turn when some of the children discover they have newfound powers at their disposal.
From the get go, I became enthralled by the mystery of it all. Why had the adults suddenly vanished? What was the source of the newfound powers? There was a genuine shock factor within the first few chapters; when the character’s discover babies have been left alone, and in some cases, they have died as a result, young children are left confused in school and one teenage girl is struggling for life after a rather brutal car crash. There is no lack of gruesome details as the book progresses further into mayhem.
The more I read the more I realised parental guidance was certainly advised.
As the plot develops you become entangled in the mysterious of the new world of the FAYZ, “Fallout Alley Youth Zone”, a place where children are left to their own devices. I was left trying to fathom out this world’s mysteries, yet the more I discovered truths it would be succeeded further questions. I read online that the books have been compared to Lord of the Flies and the TV show Lost, and I can certainly attest it holds a similar aura. For example, like the Lost TV series, I felt compelled to follow the story even when I was not interested in any of the main characters. It was actually the villains and supporting roles in the Gone series that tended to have me glued to the pages.
My one criticism of the book series was really regarding the main character’s. Let’s start with the lead character Sam. For me, I felt he was far too heroic and he had unrealistic motives. Sam consistently tends to show up do some heroic deeds then broods about it for the remainder of the said book. Astrid who is the second lead is comparatively very intellectual and can be slightly more interesting. Unfortunately, for the majority of the book series, she is given the role of a self-righteous bossyboots; who never gets a chance to become a hero relying on some of the more cliched narrative and approaches in which men save the day. Thankfully, her character is able to progress and become more self-reliant as the story unfolds. Sadly, she retains all of the attributes that made her irritating in the previous book diminishing any likeability.
Fortunately, Micheal Grant does a great job of providing strong female characters throughout the book series. Brianna Berenson, (aka The Breeze) is consistently saving everyone in the latter part of the book series. However, she never quite gets the main stage with the other ensemble of characters.
My favourite character used among the lead narrative is Lana. In fact, I adored her storyline right for the moment she was introduced. She had one of the most gruesome and difficult paths to follow. Indeed, during the first book, I found myself wanting to read more about her, but the chapter’s involving her ended quickly before the narrative switched to a new character. Throughout the series, Lana is the only character who adapts to her situation. She is the only one focused on stopping the main evil known as the darkness or the gaiaphage.
Each book follows the teenagers’ survival in the world without adults, focusing mainly on Sam, Astrid, Edilio and Little Pete whilst introducing new characters in the process. At some points, the immense amount of characters can feel unnecessary, especially when they are later killed off. That being said, I found most of the characters were utilised well in the universe.
Michael Grant is undoubtedly a genius at creating incredibly diverse characters and intriguing subplots. The writer also really manages to touch on some important topics regarding mental health. These are ranging from eating disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, and even guilt and remorse. Not to mention an entire host of serious topics regarding racism, starvation, disease, autism, suicide, and murder to name but a few.
I was happy to see the character’s varied in race, religion and sexual orientation. Spoiler Having the likeable Dekka reveal she is a closeted lesbian was rather endearing and did not feel forced into the book series. It was also great to see one of the main characters, i.e Edilio, coming out as a young gay man towards the end of the book series. On both occasions, it was done without much effort and did not resort to cliches or queer stereotypes.
I was also very intrigued by the dynamic of the character growth of Orc. I felt sorry for Orc many times during the story. Spoiler alert. Orc begins in the series as a one-dimensional bully to the kids in FAYZ. However, one day he takes his aggression too far and accidentally kills someone. Orc then becomes wrapped in guilt over the act, and during a battle with coyotes, turns into a strange monster of gravel. Throughout the rest series, he is struggling to make amends, believing his half-monster state is a punishment from god. During the progression of the series, he struggles to come to terms with his actions, worried he will go to hell. The writer makes an interesting choice to follow the psyche of Orc. Especially, as Orc develops from a complete alcoholic into a religious man on a path of redemption. By the final book, Orc has turned into a hero despite his many flaws.
Orc is not the only character to be wrapped with guilt. The writer managed to capture villainy in all different forms. We have purely evil creatures like the gaiaphage or the darkness and a truly demented boy named Drake aka whip hand. Yet, there is on comparative Diana who during the first half of the series comes across as a simply evil but is soon overcome with disgust as eating a human corpse. She follows her own path of redemption during the series.
I enjoyed the dynamics of the villains feeling remorse for their actions. It made them feel more realistic and sometimes made me sympathise for them. On the other hand, there are villains in the story you truly hate or fear, such as whip hand/Drake. His character is the villain you love to hate. Each book he resiliently appears, causing more mayhem, at the worst possible moment. With each return, the reader yearns more for his demise. There is also the mysterious gaiaphage aka the darkness that looms in the mines pulling the strings throughout the book.
The book series, needless to say, contains dark themes and at times gruesome events. Indeed in the blurb, it clearly states ‘this book contains scenes of cruelty and violence’. When initially reading the first book the warning seemed almost a tad unnecessary, but the further the story progresses it is clear this message is needed. Whilst I am not against younger audiences discovering this YA literature there are certainly more adult themes that are geared to the older audience range.
Despite the gore and macabre, the writer constantly seems to dance around profanities. After you have stepped into a world of cannibalism, man-eating worms, and coughing up lungs wouldn’t swearing seems pretty tame? This is just a small annoyance for me, especially in one book where the writer goes out of his way to indicate Sam swore without writing the word in a sentence.
Overall I was very impressed with the book series. I devoured them all in quick succession. There is a fast pace to the story that becomes gripping the further into the books you get. Each book seems to raise the stakes and manages to deliver a worthy conclusion. I have seen there is a new spin-off series of the book series, but as I found the ending was very conclusive for this series I will not be bothering with follow up book series.
Here is a brief outline of my initial reactions of the books individually. Again spoilers ahead if you have not read the books.
- Oh my, this story is really escalating quickly. Why are only some kids gifted with powers and why is there no explanation.
- Lana is so interesting I want more of her.
- So the Coates kids are clearly the villains.
- Wow Drake is so evil, I cannot imagine a 14-year-old could be that sadistic.
- Why are they calling it ‘poofing’ it could be better worded given the well-named FAYZ.
- Sam and Quinn are already annoying me, but the revelation of Little Pete has me officially hooked.
- Lana is kick-ass !!
- Lots of great character building but there seems to be too many characters.
- By the ending, I am excited to learn what the darkness is and if they can get little Pete to turn off the FAYZ
- Woah it gets straight into it! Flesh-eating worms, Sam liking the smell of burning bodies, then a kid sinking in the pool. I can really see this as a TV show.
- Astrid is just being such a damsel in distress get over it girl.
- Edilio is the only one I seem to be rooting for out of the main cast now.
- Oh moofs and freaks against each other! Zil is gonna cause a lot of problems.
- Orc trying to drink away his guilt feels very realistic.
- Noooo I liked duck!
- Brittney, I need to see more of her ‘the immortal’
- Orsay the dream girl just was not mentioned for the last half of the book
- Damn, it got dark when they tried to hang hunter and now he is all broken.
- Mary needs to get better.
- God Astrid is annoying with her damsel in distress crap.
- Sam is annoying me with his brooding PTSD.
- Who is this Sanjit?
- Ah, I see Orsay was being saved for this plot.
- Why is Lana not in this story as much?
- Somebody, please help the poor broken Mary.
- How come no one else has noticed that this new girl is evil.
- Noooooo not Mary.
- Already it is better then the previous book Lies!
- I like the introduction of Little Petes point of view.
- So many adult themes in this book. Astrid wanting to kill Pete! Diana and Caine having sex and becoming pregnant.
- Why won’t Drake just die already?
- The bugs were so grim.
- This is clearly the most horrific book so far.
- Dekka’s emergency surgery was nailbiting stuff.
- Toto is adorably weird.
- It is to good to see Astrid finally take some action.
- This is the first book where there seems to have been a considerable amount of time between the books. Astrid is living in the wild, the camp by the lake is all set up, the time has moved on.
- What or where is Little Pete?
- The Breeze is saving everyone far too much.
- Penny is as sadistic as Drake, the veins scene was grim.
- It reads longer than the previous books.
- The wall is turning black and nobody is thinking of banding together?
- Edilio is gay? I am so happy about this! He is definitely one of my favourite characters and it is handled so calmly.
- Wow, Diana’s baby is creepy.
- The outside world can see them now !!
- I feel a little sorry for Dianna.
- Gaia is so intriguing, as the darkness it was all-powerful but as this infant, it is nearsighted and easily hurt.
- I feel more sorry for Alex now!
- Yes, Breeze please kill Drake!
- Drake is clearly going to be saved even if his head is weighed down in a lake.
- Ugh, Albert is necessary, but he is such an arsehole now.
- Nooooo not Edilio’s boyfriend!
- No, No, No not the Breeze!
- Drake just die already.
- Is anyone going to live at this point the book looks like its close to the end and so much is unresolved?
- Finally, I learn what the darkness is and why some of the kids have powers!
- Oh wow, I did not see Caine becoming the hero alongside Little Pete.
- Yassss! Edilio’s boyfriend is alive!
- It really tied everything together.