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Sam Temple has always preferred surfing with his best friend Quinn to being popular, but will always be remembered for that one time a few years ago that he took control of the school bus after the driver passed out. He saved a lot of lives that day, but has since remained quiet enough to become an innocuous classmate to most of the children. This may be a simple case of childhood shyness; or it could be down to the fact that Sam has a secret that he's terrified of being discovered. Sam is a freak! As a child a strange mutant power developed in Sam that hurt someone close to him, and he's been keeping this a secret ever since. So Sam has had a somewhat interesting life already, though he was never quite prepared for the day that his history teacher poofed out of existence! Outside of his classroom hundreds of children are left wondering where their parents went the day everyone older than 14 'poofed out'. Scared and alone the majority of children are looking to 'School-bus Sam' to direct them through the crises and comfort them until their parents return. Sam feels ill prepared to take charge of this world ruled by bullies; where contact with the outside world has been cut off by a sinister barrier, and more and more children are developing strange new powers. That's when the charismatic young Caine arrives from Coates Academy; an upper-class boarding school for troubled children, and takes charge of the situation. Setting up a sort of stop gap government Cain is quick to issue his own disturbed brand of justice. Sam would like to ignore all of this and help the girl of his dreams find her autistic younger brother, but he must first balance this with the need to look after the smaller children. In the Teen Sci-Fi novel 'Gone' a mystery will unravel that will turn Sam's world upside down. The first story in a series of novels set in the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) this book sets you up for what is to come; an intriguing world that treads the line between X-Men and Lord of the Flies nicely. It's generally a very fast paced book that treats its interesting premise in a mature way, and is at its most interesting when portraying the effects of an adult-less world upon the children. There are some very emotionally disturbing moments that could upset small children as they successfully identify the very real problems these kids would be facing. There are a few characters that really shine in this section including one young girl who takes it upon herself to try and raise all of the abandoned pre-teens, and a young boy named Albert who occupies his days by re-opening the local McDonald's. There's even one Eleven Year Old girl; who is handed a medical dictionary and declared a doctor, whose struggles really tug the heart strings. It was a shame that as the book developed it moved away from these engaging topics, and shifted the focus into action and adventure. I didn't mind too much as the change in focus has enabled Grant to build a compelling world for a series of books rather than limiting his focus to this one story. As it moved into more action territory the villains took the centre stage. While these children lacked the depth of the sidelined characters they were written with a style and vibrancy that will appeal to young adults everywhere. Most notable was a mentally disturbed Coates kid named Drake who makes up for his lack of powers with a worryingly sadistic obsession with guns. Drake is the perfect example of a henchman that outshines the main villain, and was able to evoke a sense of fear despite being a mere child. It was in the latter half of the book that Grant raises even more questions as he introduces some scary monsters with a mission to torment the children as much as possible. Despite the high speed though, the book managed to retain a very suspenseful sense of foreboding due to the way that every chapter is counting down to Sam's Fifteenth birthday. My only real complaint was that the story felt slightly more rushed toward the end as Grant tried to set the world up for the sequels. As a result he had a few generic character types that appear without ever really explaining their origins. Some of them will hopefully be explained as the series progresses, while others are merely poorly explained here. However this is a small fault in a story that is engaging more often than anything else. I highly recommend it!
Gone by Michael Grant is the first novel in a series which, like many book series, is named after its first novel. It is a young adult novel, something I wasn't actually aware of before I read it. One day, in a Californian town called Perdido Beach, everyone aged fifteen and over disappears. There is no warning - they just vanish into thin air. Cars crash, homes are left empty, TV and phones stop working. And the only ones left are those under fourteen. Sam Temple and his friends Quinn and Astrid try to figure out what is happening as they go in search of Astrid's autistic brother Little Pete. They discover that the town and its surrounding area are enclosed by an impenetrable wall, and that some of the kids, Sam included, have developed strange powers. The area is soon known as the FAYZ, or Fallout Alley Youth Zone - after the town's nucleur power heritage. It becomes a war zone as the town kids and pupils from Coates Academy, a private school for problem kids, clash over territory and power. But Sam has more than just the kids war worrying him - his fifteenth birthday is fast approaching. The action of Gone gets started immediately, and you are thrown straight into the new and confusing world that the kids live in. There is plenty of action as the story gets going, and it is fast-paced and exciting. As well as Sam, we also follow the stories of Caine, the leader of the kids from Coates, and Lana, who is badly injured when her grandfathers truck crashes after he disappears. We learn from all three as they try to get to grips with their new world, and see different aspects of the changes from each one. Sam is the main character, the one you want to cheer on and you want to be the strong person you know he can be. Caine is the bad guy, who of course is written in such a way as to be compelling but also completely loathed. And Lana is on the edge of the story for a long time, stuck in the desert with her loyal dog Patrick, but she becomes caught up in dangerous things which Sam and Caine have no idea about, and so you find yourself cheering her on as much as Sam. Sam and his friends show concern for babies and small children who have been left alone by the disappearance of their parents, and this for me was the first impact of the novel. I was upset about all those tiny children left helpless and with no one to look after them. Sam and the others realize they cannot help everyone though - something I don't think I could have written. I would have had them running around town, finding all the babies, and then getting on with the action of the novel. There is however one character called Mary who takes over the town daycare, and ensures the safety and care of the children there. One scene when Sam and some others have been assigned to search some empty houses is very upsetting; perhaps you can guess why. This scene, more than any other, shows that although Gone is a young adult novel, Michael Grant does not shy away from the more upsetting aspects of the scenario he has created, because of course, were something like the FAYZ to actually happen, such things would be the reality of life there. As I mentioned previously, before I started reading Gone, I wasn't aware that it was a young adult novel. However, I began to suspect it was from the style of writing. It is something which is very hard to put your finger on, but the dialogue and narrative definitely have that style which is characteristic of young adult fiction - and I don't mean using teen slang/language, which thankfully isn't something Grant does very much of at all. Yet due to the lack of slang, this is a young adult novel which could have a much wider appeal - it has an interesting concept, a well-written and exciting story. Gone is a thoroughly enjoyable read, one which I couldn't put down and read a lot faster than I had hoped to. I'll be continuing with the series as soon as possible, and would recommend Gone to readers of all ages.
Like a teenage version of Stephen King's Under The Dome, Gone follows a similar premise with one added element. On the day the dome comes down, everyone over the age of fifteen in the area vanishes. This leaves a load of adolescent kids basically in charge of the asyllum with newly orphaned babies, toddlers and autistic children to take care of. And then, as if that wasn't bad enough, some of the kids left behind begin exhibting strange and superhuman powers.... This is like The X-men meets Lord Of The Flies meets Under The Dome and, for me, didn't really gel together as a whole. I know I am not the intended market, you get the feeling from the writing style that this is a book aimed more solely at the teenage market, but the plot had too many strands that it tried to fit together, characters who to me seemed vacuous and unintresting and the story too many parallels with other stuff I have read that was written so much better! I picked this up for 70p in a charity shop so have not really lost out but I do feel kind of cheated. The bumpf on the cover and just inside the book contains all manner of reccommendations, including (surprise-surprise) Stephen King who it seems would endorse a shopping list if someone asked him nicely enough! Though Under The Dome had its faults, it covered a similar premise sooo much better, even to the point of two opposite and conflicting factions battling for leadership, and this teenage attempt at a likewise theme just fell flat on its face in my opinion. If I had been younger, and more the audience this is aimed for, I am still not sure I would have liked it as it seems just too too similar and almost plaguristic of other people's work! The fact that there is a sequel to this, and someone suggests on Amazon that this is a possible projected six-book series, indicates that someone must have liked it and that is fine! But I honestly think that whoever bought this should seek out some of the titles this borrows from and see just how much better other authors have done with a similar premise! Very little to see here....move along please!