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