Wednesday, March 11, 2009

14 years old and below only

Remember that disaster of a reality show called Kid Nation, where the town was populated by pre-teens? Michael Grant's novel, Gone, is just like that, but the age threshold is a bit higher – 14. Set in a fictional town called Perdido Beach, Gone starts with everyone aged 15 years and up suddenly disappearing all the at the same time, leaving children to fend for themselves. They discover that their town has been shut off from the rest of the world by a circular wall. The wall's 10-mile radius from the nuclear power plant prompts older children to name Perdido Beach as the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone). And when you turn 15, you go poof.

Gone is what it would be like if kids were left to run a town. As predicted, bullies rule and the more popular boys and girls end up as the leaders. Grant attempts to add meat to this rather flimsy storyline by having some of the children develop mutant powers. Think Heroes meet Lord of the Flies. Some animals get superpowers too – talking coyotes, fast-moving cats, flying snakes, etc. The connection between the mutation and the nuclear power plant has not been established though.

Central to the novel's story are Sam and Caine, who turn out to be brothers. Caine, a boy from the local prep school, makes himself the mayor and imposes a dictatorship in FAYZ. Sam, the local hero, becomes the natural leader in the children's revolt against Caine. The brothers have the strongest powers among the children – Caine is telekenetic; Sam can fire lasers from his hands. As expected, both face off each other during the climactic scenes. Grant's black-and-white treatment of the brothers' personas comes off as predictable and unimaginative sometimes, making the brothers' allies much more interesting characters. One of Sam's allies is Diana, a 14-year-old bitch who can gauge other children's powers by assigning bars, similar to measuring the strength of a cellphone's signal. (Caine and Sam have four bars each.) Sam's love interest, Astrid, has two bars, although her powers are still not revealed.

Adult readers who’ve gone through the Harry Potter series and other well-written young adult novels may find themselves wanting after reading Gone. It still makes a fascinating read though, especially if you're partial to fantasy and science fiction. Grant may not have the finesse to develop the nuances of his characters well, but his descriptions of pivotal scenes in the novel are vivid and cinematic. Since most of the issues in the novel are not yet resolved, a second or even a third book is something to wait for. Gone may feel amateurish, but you will definitely find yourself anticipating what's in store for the inhabitants of FAYZ. Everything's ripe for the next installment – food is running in short supply, the fallen seek revenge, and a spectral element is slowly creeping up on the children.

Read this book if:
  1. You recall having been left alone in your house when you were just a kid.
  2. You haven't missed a single episode of Survivor.
  3. You're sorely disappointed with seasons 2 and 3 of Heroes.

2 comments:

Ruperto Prieto Jr. said...

Hi! gud day! ngayon ko pa lang ito binabasa and im almost done. Mganda ang story. teens..very refreshing ang mga characters. im looking for hungry, the second book. hopefully may makita ako. nice review! pero di ko binasa lahat. baka my spoilers hehehe.

Ruperto Prieto Jr. said...

Hunger pala not hungry. hehehe..