Title: The Dead and the Gone
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Genre: YA dystopian fiction
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my public library.
First line: At the moment when life as he had known it changed forever, Alex Morales was behind the counter at Joey’s Pizza, slicing a spinach pesto pie into eight roughly equal pieces.
I loved Life As We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer’s first book in the Moon series. I was excited when my library said they would order book two, The Dead and the Gone, but a little disappointed to discover that it was about a different family’s experiences after the moon incident. I loved Miranda from book one, and wanted to read more about her. Amy and I were chatting on Twitter about the series, and she assured me that I would love book two just as much, if not more. And she was right.
The Dead and the Gone is set in New York City, and tells of the Morales’ family’s experience after the moon incident. (A huge asteroid hits the moon, moving it closer to Earth, resulting in massive climate changes, tsunamis, volcanoes – and then famine, disease, etc.) Alex Morales is 17 years old, and a junior at a Catholic boys’ high school. He is there on scholarship, and works hard to get good grades so he can get into a good university. His goal is to become the first Puerto Rican president of the United States.
On the night of the moon incident, Alex is working at a local pizza parlor. His dad is in Puerto Rico for his grandmother’s funeral and his mother is working at a hospital in another borough of NYC. Alex and his two sisters, 15 year old Bri and 12 year old Julie, wait anxiously to hear from their parents. But as the days go by with no word, Alex must accept the fact that the girls and their survival is now his responsibility.
The Dead and the Gone is a darker book than Life As We Knew It. The experiences of people living in the city were, in some ways, more horrifying than for people living in more rural areas. Alex is forced to do things he never before would have contemplated in order to provide for his sisters. As a devout Catholic, Alex has to reconcile his ideas of sin and guilt with his need to help his family survive.
The issue of religion came up in both books. In Life As We Knew It, one of Miranda’s friends is a fundamentalist Christian – and her response to the disaster is disturbing to say the least. As a Christian myself, it makes me sad to know that there would be churches that would react that way. I would also like to think, however, that some Christians would respond in a caring and practical way in order to help those around them.
The Catholic community as portrayed in The Dead and the Gone is a more alive, caring faith community – one who tries to care for their congregants to the best of their ability with their limited resources. I also thought that Pfeffer wonderfully wrote about Alex’s crisis of faith, his wondering about God’s love and provision in the midst of such horror.
I devoured this book, and the last hundred pages were amazing and had me in tears in more than one place. I am so excited to read book three, via Net Galley, since it doesn’t come out in print until April.