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Friday, 21 May 2010

Review: The Dead and the Gone

Author: Susan Pfeffer
Release date: UK 2008
Genre: Dystopia, Apocalyptic Fiction
Target audience: 13+

Summary from Goodreads:
Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event--an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle. With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful new novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.

I think it is impossible to read The Dead and the Gone without comparing it to Life As We Knew It. In some ways they are the two sides of the same coin. I didn't realise when I ordered this that it wasn't a continuation of the first book but rather a book that stands alongside it. It tells the story of another family's struggle to survive after the catastrophe that rocked the world. Alex is seventeen living in the poor suburbs of Manhattan with his family in a tiny basement apartment. His dad is away in Puerto Rico attending a funeral. His mother is a nurse and is working a late shift when the asteroid hits the moon and sends the whole world spiralling out of control. When it seems neither of his parents will be returning home any time soon, Alex takes on the role of man of the house and the responsibility of caring for his two younger sisters.

Briana is fifteen and dedicated to her Catholic faith. In another life Bri may have found her vocation and become a nun. In fact Alex is also deeply religious and throughout the novel his faith is tested by the actions he has to take to ensure his sisters' survival as well as his own. Julie is characterised as the baby of the family. She is the child that everyone adores except for Alex. Part of Alex's character journey is mastering his own frustrations about Julie's immaturity and also recognising that her skills contribute greatly to their survival. Julie is surprisingly strong despite her youth. She doesn't need faith in God the way that her siblings do to survive. More it is her faith in Alex and Bri that gives her the necessary hope that they will come through the darkest of hours. I really liked Julie actually there was something so real about her. Who wouldn't want to have the biggest tantrum on earth when they have their childhood ripped away from them? I think my sister would claim I was quite Julie-like when I was growing up. I couldn't possibly comment.

I found that The Dead and the Gone lacks something in the narrative. The fact that it is told in the third person detracts from the drama that is constantly unfolding around the characters. It is almost as if you observe Alex but never really get to know the truth inside him. But that is not to say that this book is not extremely brilliant. It most certainly is brilliant. It is gruesome and mind-bogglingly shocking. The things people are forced to do in order to survival are unthinkable. I could hardly face the words that I was reading in the most climatic moments of the book.

There is no question that you have to read this book if you read Life As We Knew It and found yourself haunted by the need to go and stockpile food, water, clothes etc. The Dead and the Gone is a darker story if you can believe that. There are of course moments which show the beauty of humanity and the random acts of kindness that make me love life. I am absolutely bursting to read The World We Live In. This series is a sensation! (But very scary!)

An aside:
It was really odd to read a story about a boy named Alejandro and it not be my Alex. You know Fuentes. I felt like I was betraying him or something. This Bookette is one serious weirdo sometimes!


Shweta said...

Scary isn't it ? I think the third person narration definitely has a say in the way we look at this book. Miranda was more subtle while narrating as if she was filtering the damage and letting it be known.With Alex , we are told what happens the way it happens. The tougher brutal look at the same event and some times I thought it was darker than LAWKI..

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

Fantastic review, BeckY! I love this series, but it scares me!I read this before I read about your Alex, but I see how that could happen!

Luisa at Chicklish said...

Fascinating review, Becky, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
I love what you said about your Alex, too! You're an amazing book fan. :)

brizmus said...

I love your little aside at the end. You are hilarious, Becky! And you have reminded me that I absolutely MUST read Perfect Chemistry! Great review of this book - sounds like it might be one I'll check out only if I read and adore Life as we knew it.

Nina said...

Like Brizmus I have to read Perfect Chemistry very soon! It sounds like a really good book, that leaves you with your mouth open all the way, just thinking about the story makes me go..oh no, what if..Great review!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Great review. Your notes about "your Alex" made me smile :)

Sasha said...

YIKES! I really don't think these books are for me but your review was fab :) :S x

Carla said...

It's times like these that make me wonder why Sarah's books are not already making themselves at home on my shelves. i must buy these books immediately!! i have no excuse

I Want To Read That said...

Great review - I felt the same about the third person narrative - I still haven't read This world we live in but looking forward to it - hopefully it will be a good end to the series:)

I Want To Read That said...

Oh, and your comment about Alejandro (aka your Alex) made me LOL

The Book Bug said...

Fab review- I couldn't have said it better my self. (Or you know said it at all because I have lost my voice.) I just got the 3rd book on thursday. I can't wait to start it. The cover is horrible though.

Lauren said...

This review has absolutely reminded me how much I enjoyed this book, and how desperate I am to read This World We Live In. I've been holding off because I have so many books waiting to be read... but now I'm craving more post-apocalyptic goodness!

I kind of agree with you about the third-person narrative here. I think I recall reading an interview with the author where she said she couldn't imagine Alex keeping a diary like Miranda in the first book, so I guess that explains the change.