Monday, January 2, 2017

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer | Book Review

First Published: 2008
Young Adult, Dystopia
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.
While The Dead and the Gone is categorized as a sequel to Life as We Knew It, it would more accurately be described as a companion novel as it actually follows the same time span of the original novel, only chronicling the world-ending disaster through the eyes of 17 years old Alex Morales all the way in New York.

Despite this, The Dead and the Gone is fundamentally different than it's predecessor, and all because the eyes it's told through, and the place it's being held.

Alex is a less likable character than Miranda, I'll admit that. This is the main reason that, while I enjoyed this novel, I didn't love it as much as the first. It's not that I hated him or anything, but I also didn't like how he thought and acted with Julie, and he was sometimes overly righteous. It just didn't sit all that well with me, even though God knows I don't condemn him for any of it.

Because Alex sees death, everywhere, all around him, from the very first moment things go array. His experience is much darker and traumatizing than Miranda's, especially as all the responsibility falls on his shoulders. The things he has to do and see are horrifying... and he has to do it all alone.

I do wonder how I would've felt about this novel if it had been told in the intimacy of first person pov like Life as We Knew It, instead of third person. That said, I think this distancing in perspective is done quite intentionally. 

Where Life as We Knew It is an isolated story, about a family who is cut off from everyone else, but still has each other, The Dead and the Gone is far wider in its scope and shows much greater detail of the disaster, and is far more brutal about it. And Alex himself needs to distance himself from all the horrors around him, or else he might collapse.

The one thing that really bothered me in this regard was that Pfeffer clearly relied on people having read the first novel to fully understand the natural disaster afoot. Alex very rarely focused or cared about the larger things that were happening around him - it was simply glossed over. Oh, yeah, the moon's closer to the earth. Now there are earthquakes and floods. Hmmm... volcanoes erupting ? cool.

I understand why - Alex is focused on saving his and his sisters' lives. There is no space in his life for anything else. But at the same time, this grates because of how much this novel reads like a companion novel. 

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