Anyone who knows me personally knows how fiercely young adult (YA) fiction has my heart. Youth fiction is (in my humble opinion) far more engaging that anything written for either small children or adults, because it deals with longer attention spans and a much more critical audience, respectively. Combined with my loves for sci-fi and horror, the Gone series is easily one of the very best that YA fiction has to offer. Seamlessly navigating science fiction, supernatural abilities, horror, isolation, and desperation, and blending that with a heavy dose of panic and teen drama, the Gone series is a stand-out in many YA genres.
Set in the (fictional) small town of Perdido Beach, California, the series begins with a mysterious, opaque, impenetrable dome coming over the town, and everyone 15 years and up missing. The remaining children are faced with this new reality, with no knowledge of what’s become of their older friends and family, as tensions grow within the bubble. There are other things growing within the bubble as well: a sinister force called The Darkness (or the gaiaphage), as well as the mutant powers of some of the children, the result of a spill at the local nuclear power plant 15 years ago. Among those with powers is 14-year-old Sam, who can create levitating orbs of light. Abilities of some of the other kids include starting fires, suspending gravity, healing, microwaving objects, manipulating density, and immortality. As the kids of Perdido Beach fight to stay alive, keep the peace, and figure out how to escape the “FAYZ” (fallout alley youth zone) they must also contend with those among them who don’t trust the mutants, as well as those, both normal and mutant, who wish to exploit their situation for personal gain.
Overflowing with suspense, and both praised and criticized for its resemblances to Lord of the Flies, the televisions series Lost and Heroes, and a bit of X-Men, the Gone series is absolutely reminiscent in small part to all of these, but hypnotically unique in so many other ways. Over the course of the series, Grant ensures that every character readers are introduced to, no matter how minor, is impossible to forget, allowing them to evolve in ways unexpected. Filled with action, the Gone series forces readers to deal with one impossible situation after another, asking ourselves ethical questions about our own morality with the turn of each page. As the remaining inhabitants of Perdido Beach battle a powerful, unseen enemy, a variety of mutant plants and animals, their own fears and shortcomings, and one another, they must also contend with more realistic issues such as hunger, thirst, sickness, and death, all on their own. Even some of the worst characters in the series are relatable in one way or another, because the uncertainty at best and sheer horror at worst that is now their everyday life is virtually unthinkable.
Packed with as much emotion as they are action, the books of the Gone series are addictive and memorable, from start to finish, and worth more than one re-read. Grant also manages to realistically navigate issues such as the ramifications of ableism, classism, and xenophobia in enclosed quarters, exposing the worst in even the best characters. Each book introduces a new problem, compounding previous issues, but they also reveal the growth of many characters, for better or for worse, as they adapt to their new lives and do whatever they have to in order to stay alive and see a tomorrow which might be more harrowing than today. It’s impossible not to engage with each book, and become deeply invested in reading the series to completion. Some people become heroes, others become monsters, and most exist within the grey. It’s this in-between in which readers constantly find themselves, unsure if we could be brave and selfless in the face of such pain and terror.
Though initially six stand-alone books, (Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear, and Light), Grant will be releasing a 7th installment to the series, Monster, on October 17, 2017, which will feature a global version of the micro-crisis experienced in books 1-6.
The Gone series is intense, rewarding, moving, shocking, stimulating, and engaging; everything that readers should expect from great fiction. Without even delving into the final installment, I give this series 5 stars.