Gone by Michael Grant
Gone, the first novel in a planned six book series, starts off with a bang. Or, should I say, with a poof?
Sam Temple is in history class when the teacher suddenly disappears. As in, was there one moment, and the next he was gone. Sam and his classmates soon realize that EVERYONE over the age of 14 disappeared from the town of Perdido Beach. While the other kids in town quickly look to Sam for leadership, Sam just wants to find a way to escape and discover what really happened, worried about his recently discovered ability to create light from his hands and to do harm with the light. Into this leadership void step the Perdido Beach School bullies and, eventually, a small group of students from Coates Academy, a boarding school for wealthy troublemakers, who have an agenda of their own. Led by the charismatic Caine Soren, they quickly move to consolidate power, enforcing order and creating new rules. Caine immediately realizes Sam is their biggest obstacle, both because of how the Perdido Beach kids look to him and because the strength of Sam’s superpowers may rival Caine’s own. And if the Coates kids need to eliminate Sam to retain power, then that’s what they’ll do.
Even at 558 pages, Gone is a pretty quick read. Despite its length, though, there isn’t much character development, something I’m willing to let slide since it’s plenty entertaining on plot alone and this is the first book in the series, setting things up for future books. For readers who like action or who just want to be entertained, the lack of extensive character development won’t be a problem, as Grant manages to sustain the fast pace by combining multiple sources of suspense—why did people disappear? What do the hours and minutes running down before each chapter mean? Why can’t the kids leave? Will they have enough resources to survive?* What caused all the superpowers and mutations? Will there be a Coates Academy vs. Perdido Beach showdown—in such a way that enhances the momentum of the story instead of bogging it down. Just be sure to let them know that this is the first book of a series, since this is not mentioned anywhere on or in the book, and that while some questions are answered, there are still a lot of loose ends.** A part of me feels that more issues (maybe even all of them) could have been resolved in this book, though it would necessitate more pages or perhaps two shorter books, but I am still sufficiently intrigued to look forward to the next book.
** Why? Why do publishers do this? I had a teen complain about the same thing with Lauren Henderson’s Kiss Me Kill Me, which had an abrupt ending and no mention of it being the first book in a series.