Monday, November 7, 2011

The Dead & The Gone

The Dead & The Gone

Bibliographic Information:

Pfeffer, S. (2005). The Dead & The Gone. New York. Harcourt, Inc. ISBN: 9780152063115.


"..."Things must be all right if there's so much food," Bri said, putting the groceries away in the cabinets, making them look full and normal again. "Oh, Alex. Powdered eggs! They're almost as good as real eggs." "Did you have real eggs on the far?" he asked. The temperature in the apartment was about fifty degrees, which was where he'd set the oil burner thermostat, but Bri made things feel warm and sunny again."

Plot Summary:

Alex Morales was looking forward to college and enjoying regular teenage life until his parents disappear after/during a series natural disaster. Now, Alex is thrust in to the position of caregiver of his two sisters, one of which is ill with severe asthma and he must fight for his families survival.

Critical Analysis:

The Dead & The Gone is the follow up to Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Know It novel. The difference is that this novel takes place in the apocalyptic, dystopian future of New York City. Alex is the main protagonist who is thrust to the position of caretaker for his family after his parents assumed death in a tidal wave or other natural disaster which is caused by a meteor hitting the moon and bringing it drastically down closer to Earth which sparks a series of natural disasters.

In this novel catastrophic, life threatening events are a norm of everyday life. Also, issues such as starvation, hysteria, and people losing all moral compass are a lot of the challenges that Alex is faced with. What separates this novel from other dystopian YA fiction is that all though situations seem bleak, the themes of loyalty, family, and morality are reinforced instead of abandoned or only realized towards the end of the novel.

Alex and his sister are Catholic and of Puerto Rican descent. As one that also grew up more culturally than traditionally Catholic I found the characters to be relatable and an accurate depiction of cultural Catholicism. Also, the novel is written through journal entries which makes the story seem reflective and does an excellent job of reinforcing the narratives themes. A lot of dystopian narratives are cutthroat, whereas The Dead & The Gone is reflective and compassionate, and there are a lot of "good" characters with redeeming qualities, which separates itself from other books of the same genre.

I would recommend this book to both a male and female audience, though I think it is more catered towards young women. The only problem I have with this novel is that I think it is a bit longer than necessary and the lack of much change in settings was distracting and did not keep me fully engaged.

The characters in this book are vastly different than the first, which some reviewers don't seem to like. But to me it makes sense - the author is exploring how a worldwide event is affecting people from all walks of life. The "Life as We Knew It" characters aren't especially religious, but Pfeffer chose to sketch a Puerto Rican family that takes faith very seriously in "The Dead and the Gone." Obviously, the world is made up of people from all sorts of backgrounds - so why shouldn't the author take on different types of characters? It might have been interesting if she had chosen to write about characters in another country, instead of basing her two books in the United States. But my overall point is, I think Pfeffer made a great decision in exploring how the same event would affect people with a different worldview.

If you're looking for a happy ending, these are not the books you want to read. They're more character studies in a short period of time, but there is no real conclusion. There's hope at the end, but the story's not really "finished" - kind of like real life.
-Amazon Reader's Review

I love this series of books. The premise isn't scientifically valid - but it is a reasonable representation of where we might be headed if global climate change continues. This is a young adult novel, but I wouldn't recommend it for pre-teens as it has violent and disturbing aspects. The whole series is a story of hope and perseverance regardless of the horrors that happen. It talks about extreme bravery, love and loyalty despite adversity. I also like it because you never know what will happen next.
-H.M.S. (A Reader's Review)

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