SYNOPSIS

Night is falling in the FAYZ. It has been nearly a year since everyone over the age of fifteen disappeared. And even though everything changed, the sun continued to shine on those left in Perdido Beach. But now the gaiaphage has blotted out the sun and plunged the FAYZ into perpetual gloom. Divided and dispirited, the survivors face their greatest enemy yet – the darkness of their own minds.

BEN’S REVIEW

For those of you who haven’t been a part of Michael Grant’s GONE series, that synopsis won’t mean much. And you might think it’s peculiar I’ve chosen to review the fifth instalment in this six-book series (the final one comes out in 2013) rather than the previous ones.

Well, the answer is: because I want to. You see, it’s taken until now to really get to grips with this story. To really understand (in my own mind at least) what Grant is trying to do. And it wasn’t until I put down this doorstop of a novel that I realised something that had kind of snuck up on me. This is some of the best YA writing I’ve ever read.

I recently reviewed the opening act in Grant’s other new saga, the Bzrk series, elsewhere in these pages. And while I had a lot of fun with it, I also found it flawed. Hopefully, I explained why.

I’m not having that problem with the GONE series. It’s epic, tender, scary, witty, complex and a whole slew of other congratulatory words I’m not going to list here.

It says something about modern youth, something about courage, something about humanity, something about our disconnected world – all wrapped up in a sci-fi adventure story set in a coastal California town. That’s impressive.

I’ve gone on record with my irritation for publishers’ (and perhaps authors’ to an extent, especially YA ones) predilection for multi-book story arcs, mainly because they tend to peter out when the writer realises they don’t have enough story to fill the pages. It’s only reading Grant’s work that I understand where it can work. This narrative is like The Wire or Lost. Its length lends it depth. Giving its characters room to breathe actually makes them feel like living human beings.

The only worry I have with this book and the series in general is that it may give some parents pause. Not because of its quality. No, it’s because every one of the children here (and sometimes one forgets they are children) exists within a grey zone so far from “goodie” and “baddie” it’s terrifying. Okay, you’re right, every one except the incontrovertibly evil Drake. But the rest? Their behaviour is written to be honest, searing, fury-making, hug-worthy and tear-wrenching.

And in a world where kids increasingly come face-to-face with realities too harsh for their age, it’s intriguing to guess to what extent they’re ready to deal with it in a novel.

The platinum sales would suggest they’re fine, even if they’re reading less for the subtext than the nail-biting action and visceral violence.

Me? As you can tell, I’m hooked. This deserves to be Hunger Games huge, but part of me is pleased I still feel like a person in on a secret rather than part of a pop culture phenomenon.

I suppose I’m doing my very best to change that. I only have one tip – buy this book by all means, but make sure you get the others and begin at the beginning. You won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 5/5