Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Review: The Dead and the Gone
The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Reasons for reading: I was riveted by Pfeffer's first book; Seconds Challenge
From the publisher: "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."
First line: "At the moment when life as he had known it changed forever, Alex Morales was behind the counter at Joey's Pizza, slicing a spinach pesto pie into eight roughly equal pieces."
My thoughts: This book was an interesting companion to Life As We Knew It (note the echo in the first line) because it was about a girl in a fairly rural area who still had her mother with her. Alex lives in New York City and suddenly becomes the only parental figure to his younger sisters. LAWNI was also told from Miranda's first-person perspective in her diary, while this book is in third person.
I didn't find that this book had quite the atmosphere of the first book - I remember really feeling the presence of the looming moon in the first book. Perhaps in the city it wouldn't make as much of an impression, or perhaps Pfeffer felt she'd already done that. The realities of city life during a disaster were pretty well-drawn - death and rats and danger, though I think Alex managed to look after the girls well enough that they didn't experience the full horror.
Faith plays a central role in the book, which isn't something that comes up in most of the YA novels I've read. Alex's sister Briana is so devout she's almost a nun already, while Alex struggles with his faith when confronted with the horrors of the disaster. Even under horrible conditions, the daily acts of prayer and attending church play a large part in the Morales siblings' lives.
The book ends with a tiny spark of hope, but overall I'd say it's even bleaker than the first one.
The verdict: Another good survival/disaster story from Pfeffer.