The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer: C+

deadandthegoneFrom the back cover:
When life as Alex Morales had known it changed forever, he was working behind the counter at Joey’s Pizza. He was worried about getting elected as senior class president and making the grades to land him in a good college. He never expected that an asteroid would hit the moon, knocking it closer in orbit to the earth and catastrophically altering the earth’s climate. He never expected to be fighting just to stay alive. And when Alex’s parents disappear in the aftermath of the tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland.

Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its look at an apocalyptic event from a small-town perspective. Now this harrowing companion book examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican New Yorker.

With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.

Seeing as how The Dead and the Gone is a companion book to Life As We Knew It, I expected that they’d have fundamentally the same plot. Apparently, I should’ve anticipated they’d have the same pitfalls, as well.

The story this time focuses on ambitious teenager Alex Morales, whose dreams of a bright academic future are cut short when an asteroid knocks the moon much closer to Earth, sending everyone into panic and claiming the lives of both of Alex’s parents. Forced to care for his two sisters, he does some awful things in order to survive and tries to make the best decisions he can, though sometimes ends up making mistakes. Faith is important to the Morales family, especially to super-pious Briana, who believes that her parents aren’t really dead but just stricken with amnesia from which they will miraculously recover someday.

One of the most annoying things about Life As We Knew It was its whiny protagonist and how she’d seem to improve, only to backslide. The same thing happens in this book with Alex’s younger sister, Julie, though eventually I realized Alex himself is a large part of the problem there. I’ve read three of Pfeffer’s books by now and have noticed that she tends to repeat things. This book is no exception, since a large part of it is taken up by variations on the following scene, repeated at least five or six times:

Alex: *accuses Julie of something*
Julie: I hate you! *runs off, slams door*
Alex: *goes in to talk to Julie and apologize*

After a while, I ended up sympathizing with Julie because Alex kept blaming everything on her! I was also irritated by the open-ended conclusion, predicted something waaaaaay in advance about Briana, and literally laughed out loud at the ridiculous fever dream Alex has while he’s sick with the flu.

That said, I do tend to like these apocalyptic YA books, so at least I enjoyed the basic plot even if the Morales family got on my nerves. I think I’ve learned by now, though, that Pfeffer’s books just aren’t my thing.

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  1. I just picked up Life As We Knew It to read over spring break. Hopefully, I’ll be able to add it to my classroom library. Looks like this follow-up is luke-warm, though. (Haven’t read the review, in case of spoilers, but I saw the C+ grade.)

    • Yeah, I liked the first book more (and can’t think of anything that would bar it from a classroom). Interestingly, I just learned yesterday that a third book in the series, This World We Live In, has just come out. I will probably read it, even though book two failed to thrill me.

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