International Writers Magazine: Young Adult Fiction
by Michael Grant
Hardcover: 576 pages
USA Publisher: Harperteen (Jul 2008)
by Egmont April 6th 2009.
UK ISBN: 978 1 4052 4234 -9
but increasingly true that the best writing these days is not coming
from adult literature but young adult or teen fiction. You only have
to look at the success of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer and realise
that it is true with 10 million copies sold of her Vampire series. Patrick
Ness has cut new ground with his electrifying Knife of never
letting Go (Walker Books) in the UK and now here is Michael
Grant with Gone which is an update of Lord of the
Flies with some of Heroes thrown in for good measure. Does that mean
it isnt original? Hell anyone could update Lord of the Flies,
right. But Grant did and we didnt and he deserves respect. Add
some special powers and you have a very cruel and harsh growth spurt
of violence in a small town community when they are cut off from the
rest of America.
Set in Perdido Beach, California in the present day, its a pretty
normal day in high school when first the teachers vanish and slowly
all the kids under 15 realise that everyone over this age has gone.
Completely. Young babies abandoned by mothers, trucks smashed, stoves,
TVs , everything left on, (in one car crash teen Lana is left
crippled as her Grandfather literally vanishes at the wheel).
The electricy stays on, curiously, despite no one manning the nearby
nuclear power station.
This is a world were a MacDonalds fixated young teen realises
that someone has to save the store and run it and theres at least
a years supply of burgers in the fridge. It is also a town were someone
has to step up to the plate and take responsibility, but of course,
unfortunately there are others who thrive on chaos and misfortune.
Like Lord of the Flies before it, it comes down to good guys versus
bullies and the bullies quickly get the upper hand.
Sam, burdened by being a childhood hero who saved people on the bus
when it was going to crash doesnt want to take up the slack and
into the vacuum comes Ork, lazy fat bully with his henchmen. Added to
the mix is the private school up the road, Coates Academy where troubled,
rich kids go. Very troubled.
Its a classic class war and it takes on life and death manifestations
as evil grows.
Sam wants to do right, his girl Astrid (who has an autistic four year
old sibling) wants him to do right, but he has a new power he is trying
to deal with, anger in the shape of a laser that shoots out his hands
and hes not a natural leader. Michael, from Coates Academy is
a natural leader and he has special skills too and is prepared to use
them to get his own way. When he drives into town with his cruel gang,
including Drake the psychopath, he takes over. He recognises Sam is
a rival but quickly neutralises him. (Everyone is measured in bars,
like the signal on your cell phone. Sam and Michael are four bars -
Meanwhile Lana, lying up in the hills with her dog Patrick has a broken
leg and arm and may die. She slowly learns that she can heal herself.
But curiosity grabs her when hiding out in an old miners hut and she
discovers the talking Coyotes and something sinister called The
Darkness. Her life changes from that moment on.
How this all plays out is absolutely gripping. These kids are all literarily
in a bubble. There is a wall all around them (much the same thing happened
in the Simpsons movie I must say, but what it lacked in invention is
here a plenty).
Think Zardoz (A Sean Connery movie where all of the people who
live forever behind an invisible wall). Think Battle Royale
where all the school kids are pitted against each other until the last
one standing. There are influences from many sources, all neatly brought
under one roof. Many of the kids are developing powers such
as mind-reading, or creating a force field or moving really rapidly
and it doesn't matter that Heroes did this before, it still fascinates.
Some like Drake are afraid of them and when he catches them he dips
their hands in concrete so they are powerless and hungry being unable
to feed themselves. It is not for the squeamish this.
Gone is a really fast read and all the characters are well defined with
strengths and weaknesses and the violence starts pretty fast. This is
no burgeoning utopia.
It will sell millions and they will make the movie
© Sam North
and if you like
this seek out The
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Thrilling unacknowleged adaptation of Battle Royale to post-Apocapyptic
USA. Gripping teen survival story.
Summer 2008 - Mean Tide by
'Extraordinary novel about a child's psychic
Lulu Press - ISBN: 978-1-4092-0354-4
'An engaging, unusual and completely engrossing read' - Beverly
Birch author of 'Rift'
to live with his spooky Grandma by the river in Greenwich, Oliver
(12) discovers a whole world of disturbed people who are probably
even crazier than the ones he left behind. When he finds a dog with
its throat cut on the beach, everything changes.
range 12-16 and adult
young fiction reviews
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