The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
My rating: 3/5 cats
it has come to this. last week, while waiting for more books to come up to shelve, i was idly wondering if this book had come out in paperback yet. it had. so i ran downstairs, pushing folks out of the way on the escalator and making a beeline for teen fiction where i whooped and grabbed a copy. ashamed of my excitement, i made my way back upstairs, trying to figure out how the mighty had fallen. (and by mighty, i mean only those vehemently opposed to adults who read teen fiction). now, i am only opposed to adults who read teen fiction exclusively. come find me in a year or two and see what is happening then.
but i thought this book would be worth a read. it is the second part of the series that describes what happens when an asteroid scootches the moon a little closer to us. tsunamis, volcanoes, panic, volcanic ash covering the sun, cold, starvation, more panic, crop death. the first one i thought was only eh. it was narrated by a kind of whiny white girl in pennsylvania suburbia. this one was supposed to have been narrated by a puerto rican teenager living in new york city! splendid, i thought—that’s where i live! let’s see what will happen here—maybe i can get some more end-of-world-pointers, just in case.
the problem is, these two characters are interchangeable. it’s true, he will occasionally blurt out a spanish phrase in the middle of his speeches. but just cuz you know a little spanish, doesn’t make you authentic (pingüino). just because dave chappelle wears whiteface he doesn’t then become “white,” just hilarious. and that’s this book’s problem. there are times when it is hilarious. for example: the main character, a hard-working, catholic-school-attending, second-in-his-class, doing-homework-after-the-apocalypse kind of kid—this kid doesn’t know how to make macaroni because of the traditional gender roles of his ethnicity??—”it goes in a pot??”—something about his complete helplessness doesn’t ring true.
and mon dieu, don’t get me started on the catholic thing. if i entered a church now, i would probably go up in flames, but i was indeed raised roman catholic. and i know catholics make for passive and somewhat wimpy heroes (although i saw book of eli yesterday, and that—while not being overall a great movie- had some serious badassery in it) and i totally understand the moral burden of catholicism, but this is survival, son…jesus would want you to have some canned goods. in the apocalypse, breaking into apartments from which the owners have fled is not stealing, it is persevering. you can only turn the other cheek and do unto others for so long, at some point you have to eat.
and i see these catholic school kids in the store after school lets out daily. and i assume we get the nerdiest of that population because who else would come to a bookstore to hang out, manga or no manga…but if we are getting the nerdiest of the batch, the kids in this book are not among them. the kids in this book do not exist in the parochial schools of new york. maybe rhode island—somewhere more sheltered and polite. maybe.
this is what kills me—the book is called “wrenchingly plausible” but it is in no way authentic-seeming, either in voice or occurrences. there are some scenes of mob-mentality, but it all seems like gentle-mall violence, not nyfc. and yes it is teen fiction, but so is hunger games, and that is masterful in its control of violence.
and they don’t seem too resourceful anyway. after reading three of the brian books by gary paulsen, i understand teen ingenuity. even though it is fiction, it has the ring of truth—his thought processes and trial-and-errors make sense. this kid doesn’t seem like any urban 17-year-old i have come across in my workaday life (including the ones i shoved to get to this book), and his younger sisters are worse than useless.
THIS IS WHERE I MAY BE SPOILING SOMETHING IF YOU PLAN ON READING THIS BOOK SO BEWARE AND DO NOT CROSS THIS BARRIER.
i don’t care how religious you are, you do not shake the hand of the man who offers to pimp out your sister and say “no hard feelings.” dude! jesus would totally not be into that. he would allow you a little resentment. maybe a kick or two. as long as you repent…
also—unrelated to child-prostitution—the same “out” was used as was used in the first book, for one character, to be sent somewhere “better” for a time, if i am remembering correctly. boo-urns for repetition.
but i know that when the third book comes out, i will be pushing teen readers out of the way with a vengeance. and if the moon gets any closer, i will be breaking into your apartments to get at your canned beets. count on it. so stock up.
final word: eh.
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