Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Dead and the Gone - Susan Beth Pfeffer


The Last Survivors Trilogy has been flying above the radar for some time in the Young Adult literary circles. The series is also one of many that are fueling a sort of apocalypse fever gripping young readers (and a few older ones). I read the first book in the series, Life As We Knew It, with my daughter, and we both loved it. We knew at this point the deal was done...we had to see it through to the end.


The premise of both books is that an asteroid has hit the moon, pushing it closer to the earth, and unleashing tsunamis, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, flu outbreaks, loss of electricity, food shortages...your basic end-of-the-world fun. In The Dead and the Gone, we experience the after-effects through the eyes of Alex Morales, a lower-income 17 year-old living in New York City. Alex is a model kid, attending a Catholic school on scholarship, an over-achiever, and a good example for his two younger sisters.

When the asteroid hits the moon, Alex's father is in Puerto Rico attending a funeral, and his mother is in transit to her job at a Bronx hospital. With both parents missing in action, names on the list of those "gone", Alex becomes the head of household and caregiver for his sisters. He must live by his wits, bartering objects in his apartment building and objects taken from dead bodies for food and clothing. While he is determined to protect his sisters, he is spiritually distraught at what actions the circumstances have forced him to take.

Unlike the first book, where religious leaders were corrupt, religion plays a significant and positive role in the emotional and physical survival of these children. They pray, they attend church, the Catholic school continues to feed and educate throughout the crisis, and Alex receives guidance from various priests to help him reconcile his conscience with God.

Inevitably, as electricity is lost, the volcanic ash causes arctic conditions, and New York is quarantined due to the flu epidemic, humanity starts to circle the drain, including the Morales children. While the situation is oppressive and hopeless, with a significant body count to keep us humble, Pfeffer also rewards us with moments of beauty. Alex's spoiled, brattish 12 year-old sister grows up and pulls her weight in the family, Alex finds a special friendship with a boy he had previously disregarded, and faith prevails.

The novelty seems to have worn off after having experienced the asteroid event in book one, and maybe for this reason, book two wasn't quite as riveting. Nevertheless, I read this book in a day and a half, and was entertained and touched by the different perspective. I was especially thankful for the fact that we Catholics, who are usually on the receiving end of the media truncheon, were cast as a positive force.

The third and final installment, This World We Live In, is launched in less than a month. Knowing that the worlds and protagonists of books one and two converge in this novel makes the anticipation in the Nawrot house feverishly high. We hope it lives up to our expectations!

Here are my daughter's thoughts:

The Dead and the Gone turned out to be an interesting book in all. I wasn't jumping out of my seat in the beginning. It actually made me want to put the book down it was so boring. But, as the book progressed, it continued to get more interesting and made me want to read more. It starts just telling about a boy's life and his family. Then, when the asteroid hits the moon, it talks about
Alex and his two sisters trying to survive. At this point, events start to happen, leading the three kids to different places, having to do different things, and protecting one another. It was at this stage that I actually got more attentive to the book.


The characters in the book were very different from one another. Julie, Alex's youngest sister sounded like a spoiled brat to me. On the bright side she acted very tough at times, which was an advantage, based on everything that was happening. Bri, Alex's oldest sister, was a lot more kinder and gentler than Julie. She does not act like a normal teenager would.

The beginning of the book made me feel bored. The middle section of the book made me feel surprised and sick, because of all the disgusting things. The end made me feel completely sad because of a big shock that happens, that you'll just have to find out when you read it.

Tip: Read the first book in this series, Life As We Knew It - it is a way better book than this one, in my opinion.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Emma's rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


20 comments:

Melody said...

I have the first two books in my pile but just haven't got around to reading them yet! Must remedy that! ;)

Nymeth said...

I can understand why this wouldn't be quite as riveting, considering it covers the same events as the first book. But I think I'd still like it, even if not quite as much. I've just been putting off reading it because the first book took me to a very dark emotional place, and I'm sure this one will too.

caite said...

as you might suspect from my review of the first book, I doubt I will be reading this one. Although I am happy to see we religious folks are not made out to be just total fools this time.

(I was going to say that I will leave that to the so called Main Stream Media these day, but it seems too early in the day to be so snarky. oooops! lol)

Beth F said...

I just skimmed because I haven't read the first one yet! I have them both, tho. Story of my life! I want to read everything.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

What I found interesting was that while the officialdom of Catholicism was supportive and helpful, the laic reaction wasn't always rational (such as Brianna's). So the presentation of the effects of faith was more complex, which I thought was very good.

Andreea said...

I have heard so much about these books from other bloggers that I think I must check them out, especially now with your great review!

Julie P. said...

I'm still interested in the series, and I can't wait to read the first one. It's a shame when the following books don't live up to the first, but I can imagine that it's extremely difficult to do.

Ti said...

I agree that the first book is much better. I am reading book three right now and it's a real treat to read about Miranda and her family again.

Lenore said...

I read the first and I am getting the third, but I might be bad and skip this one!

Stephanie said...

Great review. I too didn't think it was as riveting as book one, but still a good read.
I also appreciate you mentioning the religious angle to book two. Even though I didn't appreciate it as much as you (I'm a practicing Catholic and have a pretty strong faith, but have a hard time when felt like I'm being preached to), I understand and appreciate your persepctive!

bermudaonion said...

I know a lot of people love this series, but I still on the fence. I'm just not sure it's for me.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I loved the first one, but I'm iffy about reading this one. 4 of 5 stars is pretty good, so maybe I'll grab it at the library one of these days.

Zibilee said...

I just bought this book for my son's Easter Basket gift. I know that my daughter read the first one and raved about it, so I am hoping that they will both like it and share it. I do want to read this series, but haven't gotten around to it yet. It does sound very good. I love the dual review with your daughter as well. She seems like a bright young lady.

Jenners said...

Tell your daughter she write a good review! And I appreciate her honesty.

This book is starting to appear all over the place now it seems!

Alyce said...

I've heard from several people that the first book is better than the second.

Carrie K. said...

Great joint review! I, like you, was glad to see a positive religious community show up in this one.

Alice Teh said...

This is the first time I'm hearing about this series. I'm not sure about reading it, though. Thanks for review, Sandy!

Darlene said...

I've been listening to the first book on audio and I'm not as crazy about it as others have been. It's ok but I'm not sure I'll listen to the next one. Maybe I'd do better with the book instead of the audio.

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf said...

I've just finished this one as well, and am just collecting other reviews to link to with my review. :)

I too enjoyed it, but not quite as much as the first.

Anna said...

I hope to get around to these books at some point. I loved Emma's review, and I'll have to keep in mind that this one might be a bit slow-going.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric