Sam is sitting in class when suddenly his teacher disappears. Not just his teacher, everyone over the age of fifteen disappears from his town. There is also a barrier blocking the town off from the rest of the world. Without adults, a fight for control and power takes place, the biggest bullies in town attempting to rule. Sam has a secret though, he has an unusual ability–he can shoot laser-like light from his hands. As he is about to discover, he is not the only one with these powers and while he is a natural-born, compassionate leader, not everyone with abilities is. To make matters worse, Sam learns that his mother has been lying to him about his family, there is a Darkness corrupting animals/people, and worst of all for fourteen year old Sam, is that when people turn fifteen they disappear.
This book has all the ingredients of a book I would like: kids with powers they don’t understand, no adults and thus a reasonable explanation for why the kids are so involved in dangerous events without intervention, and a bit of a mystery to figure out (it’s sort of a futuristic Lord of the Flies). I also like there being a love story without it being the central story (I have never been a fan of a character whose only purpose is to be someone else’s significant other). Overall, I did enjoy reading Michael Grant’s Gone. But that isn’t to say it had no flaws.
The biggest flaw I found in this book involved religion. For one thing, there is a great deal of talking about and invoking God/Jesus/Mary which felt perhaps a little overly forced since there was no indication that these kids were particularly religious to the point where they could recite entire passages off the top of their heads. It also seems a little intrusive. (Maybe it’s just me, but if I was in immediate danger–like say a rush of coyotes surrounding me and threatening to eat me, I think I’d be more inclined to say “Please God, please…” over the an entire long prayer.) Even more than this, was the fact that the main character, Sam, was not only not religious, but not Christian. Though he didn’t particularly identify with any religion, the closest he’s got is Judaism. As such, all the talk of Mother Mary and Jesus, etc should have been a little odd for him, if not a little uncomfortable.
Allegiances seemed a little shifty and easily changed (which I suppose makes sense in a world run by children) but it would have been nice to have a better sense of why people made the decisions they made. Why did Diane choose Caine, why did Edilio join Sam, why did Quinn hover from one side to the other? Granted, this is a multiple book series, so we have time to learn all about the different characters, but sometimes the decisions didn’t quite add up to what we knew.
One of the strengths (and perhaps also weaknesses) of the book is how much is happening. There’s Astrid finding her brother, Astrid and Sam’s relationship, Quinn and Sam’s relationship, the town figuring out how to run, the power struggle between the Coates kids and the rest of the town, the mystery of what happened and how to avoid disappearing, Sam’s past, etc. The plus to this is there is never a dull moment (but Grant did a good job of keeping you from feeling overwhelmed with information). Each scene is informative and moves the story forward in some way. The downside to this, is that we got occasional glimpses of characters such as Lana and Mary who felt like they had serious things going on but simply didn’t get enough attention.
I’m excited to see where the series goes, but I do hope it dials down on the religion and delves into the characters and their motivations/pasts more. This book could actually make a fascinating TV show if executed well. There’s so much happening that there would be material to cover for years.