Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: Gone by Michael Grant + 3 Book Series Giveaway

In the blink of an eye, everyone 15 and older in Perdido Beach is gone. A mysterious dome has also appeared that keeps all the kids inside with no communication with the outside world – if there still is one. Also, some of the kids have begun to manifest strange new powers, and animals are mutating.

After initially happily gorging themselves on candy bars and ice cream, the kids start to panic as time goes on and 14 year old Sam seems a natural choice for leader. Sam is reluctant to take on the mantle of hero though, and in sweep a group of kids from the exclusive Coates Academy, led by the darkly charismatic Caine. This sets up a war for control of the Fallout Alley Youth Zone, with the “good” Perdido Beach kids against the “evil” Coates kids and Sam and Caine in a rush to gain power before each of them also turns 15 and go “poof”.

GONE has me completely torn. It’s daring and compelling with perfect pacing and twists and turns galore, but it is frustratingly lacking in certain areas of character development. It takes itself very seriously, yet it often times comes off as seriously silly.

I’ve never done this before, but the best way to express my thoughts on this one is to do lists of the good, the bad and the unforgivable.


- Grant sets up a question that I want to know the answer to: How do people disappear when they are 15 and is there any way to remain past that cutoff date? Using chapter headings that are a countdown to Sam’s 15th birthday, Grant imbues the narrative with a real sense of urgency that kept me frantically turning the pages. And the best part is that although this is the first book of a (LONG 6 book) series, I did get at least some closure and some satisfying answers.

- Grant keeps it real (well, in one aspect of it all anyway): A world where all adults disappear is no picnic. And although its’ similarity to LORD OF THE FLIES is one of the main reasons I initially avoided this (been there, done that), Grant does not shy away from the terrible consequences such a world would have. For example: though Sam’s crush Astrid has the foresight to look for her autistic younger brother, by the time the kids think of doing a house by house search for toddlers and babies left behind, the results are gruesome.

- Out all the characters, I liked Lena and her dog Patrick the most. Lena’s background and solitary journey is very different , and I was most intrigued by her story and her “superpower” (once I finally accepted that superpowers were going to be part of the story, like it or not) … well, until her encounter with the talking wolves….

Which brings me to THE BAD:

- Evil talking wolves! Every scene with the talking wolves made me laugh hysterically, which I am guessing wasn’t the intention. Also the idea of a big bad power lurking in an abandoned mine? Also came off as laughably lame.

- Sam’s friend Quinn. Lily-livered and way too fond of the word “brah”.

- Caine is such a stock villain, it hurts. He’s the most powerful of all the kids (or so he believes) and is the personification of “power corrupts”. In this installment, he doesn’t have any layers (maybe he adds some as the series goes on, but dudes! This is a chunkster of a book – give the boy some layers already!) Yes, we see a couple of motivations for his hated of Sam, but they are your standard villain fare. Boring.


- The moment I threw the book across the room? When a certain bad girl character is invited to redeem herself and come to the good side, she refuses by saying, “Don’t you know that bad girl always goes off with the bad boy?” UGH! How flat is that? Just no.

So yeah, you see why I’m torn? I’m still trying to decide if I should continue with the series. It’s 6 books long! And book 2, HUNGER, has some mutant killer worms which I am not too eager to meet.

Rating? For entertainment value alone, I’d give it a 4, easily. But since there are some very real flaws which would put it more in the 2 category, I’m going to average it out to 3 Zombie Chickens – Well worth reading.

Series order:
GONE (available in paperback)
HUNGER (available in paperback)
LIES (available in hardcover)
PLAGUE (due April 1, 2011)
DARKNESS (due 2012)
LIGHT (due 2013)

Find out more about the series at the HarperCollins website.

AND because so many people LOVE this series, I am thrilled to be able to offer books 1-3 to one lucky reader (US resident) courtesy of HarperTeen. And since I’m on the topic of villains, to enter the giveaway, just leave a comment telling me either the lamest villain or the coolest villain you’ve encountered lately. (You can also tell me even if you don't enter the giveaway). Contest will remain open until the end of August.


Dawn Embers said...

Interesting. The premise sounds different, but I never read Lord of the Flies. Never had to read it.

I think the villain I like the most, one of the few villains I even remember over 10 years later is from Of Two Minds. I think what made the villain cool is because the character was created from the female main character. Her and the male main character were in a twisted world that she'd created in her mind to get away from the dull issues she had at home. The things that happen in that world are whimsical, weird and eventually crazy. The villain is a manifestation of the hero, then, and in an interesting fashion there is a battle at the end. So she has to fight herself with her mind that created the villain in the first place.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I think my daughter would like this series, and wouldn't bat an eye at some of the flaws that drive you and I nuts. So I am going to throw my name in the hat for her. Best villain? Some good ones out there, but I always think of Delores Umbridge. She inspired HATE in my heart! rnawrot at cfl dot rr dot com

Diana Dang said...

Thank you for your honest review! Now I have a better picture of this series, its easier to decide if I'll pick it up. :)

Zibilee said...

I think you might have lost me with the talking wolves. The book sounds like it does have some really interesting aspects to it, but some of those plot devices seem a little to ridiculous for me to really get invested. Thanks for the great review on this one, Lenore. I am really interested in hearing what you think as the series progresses, giant worms and all!

Amanda said...

I've seen these books around but had never known what they were about. I'm glad I read your review now - I can stay well away from them!!

Silvia said...

I've had this book unread in my bookshelf for a year more or less. I don't know why I haven't read it yet, I guess there's always something else I prefer reading... Either way, after reading your review I feel like reading it so maybe I'll grab it after I finish what I'm reading now^^

My favourite villian would be Damon from The Vampire Diaries since he's so dark and sexy but caring too.^^
Don't enter me because I'm not from the US.


Heather said...

I've been meaning to read this series, there is just that little matter of time. Oh, and money. ;)

My favorite villian at the mo' is the President Snow from The Hunger Games series. Seriously, the man smells like BLOOD. It doesn't get more evil than that, right?

Hawkeyegirl said...

The talking wolves sounds like a Narnia rip off to me, but I still think I'd read them, I just can't seem to get enough YA dystopic fiction these days.

And speaking of Narnia, my favorite villain is probably the White Witch. She creeped me out as a child unlike any other book villain. I think it may be a female thing- Maleficent in Sleepy Beauty terrified me too.

kjovus said...

My favorite villian (sorry not in a book) is Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "nemisisisis's" Andrew and gang. they think they are more evil than they really are.

Book villian: President Snow from Hunger Games; Voldemort from Harry Potter;

Most annoying villian is the kitsune in vampire diaries.

bermudaonion said...

Your review is fantastic, but for me it sounds like the bad outweighs the good, so I'm going to skip the contest.

Heather said...

I am very interested to read about the talking wolves! Maybe that's where all the adults went? They became evil wolves!

I've been interested in this series for awhile, so I'll enter the giveaway. I think the lamest villain just about ever is Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, from Batman & Robin. Ugh. I mean, really? REALLY? The puns, the acting, the outfit, just all of it. (You didn't specify book villain so I hope this is OK.)

Lenore said...

Ha! That's a great theory Heather. I bet that's what happened!

Ku said...

I've just finished reading this book last Friday and I agree with you about the talking wolves. I cracked up totally. But I think the book's worth reading afterall and I'm gonna pick up HUNGER. Thanks for this honest and interesting review ;D

poshdeluxe said...

lenore, i feel you on the bads and unforgivables in this book. sure, it had its nail-biting moments (enough for me to read the second one), but let's just say IT WAS NO KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO.

Emily H. said...

I'd like to enter the contest.

The coolest villain I've encountered lately is Circe in A Great and Terrible Beauty.

treerose AT yahoo DOT com

Lenore said...

Sarah - Exactly! I do think part of my problem with the book is that I read it right after MONSTERS OF MEN which has one the best, most layered villains ever. Sooo...a hard act to follow indeed.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Oh bummer! I thought these were going to be awesome books but I think with what you mention here I would probably pass on this series. So many books I want to read!

Thanks for your thoughts on this :D

Lexie said...

Ahh I think I would have to go with the villain Styx from the short story "By My Works You Shall Know Me" by Mark Chadbourn in the short story anthology Masked. There's a twist at the end, that is more than slightly unsettling and horrifying (in its implications, especially for superhero enthusiasts). Styx was extreme. The sort of villain you expect to face against a Hero. Brutal, insane and intelligent.

I've been interested in the Gone series by Michael Grant for a long while, but I admit the reference to The Lord of the Flies often has me spinning towards a different book to read/buy.


Allison said...

Awesome giveaway, I've been wanting to read these for awhile now, just haven't gotten around to it :)

Your review does give me a little bit of pause, so I will tone down my expectations just a tad.

The most interesting villian I've come across lately is the Enclave from Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien. Very creepy government set-up, I loved reading about it!

elizabeth said...

Great review! I can honestly say I would love to read this series.

Best villain would have to be President Snow from The Hunger Games. He seriously creeps me out.

swordsforfighting at yahoo dot com

Michelle said...

I totally agree. The whole big bad superpower in the bottom of the mine is completely laughable. Don't understand it one little bit. Which makes it even more confusing, since as you say the rest of the story is pretty dang compelling and intriguing. I've only read this first book, but I think I'll try the next ones just to see where they go. But yes - he is no Patrick Ness.

Some of my fav villains include Mayor Prentiss, The White Witch from Lion, Witch & Wardrobe, and Voldemort. All creepy, all baddies done well. Thanks!

jpetroroy said...

The best (in an awful way) has to be Mayor Prentiss from Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking Trilogy.

Jacqueline C. said...

This is the first review of this book that I've read, despite the fact that I've seen this book EVERYWHERE. I've only recently decided to give this series a try but . . . talking wolves? Are you serious? For some reason, I thought this would be more sci-fi and less supernatural. I'm still going to give it a go though. At least now I somewhat know what to expect and won't be setting myself up for disappointment.

As far as my favorite villains - you can't really beat Voldemort. He's thoroughly evil without being a caricature. Also, President Snow is insanely creepy. I NEED to know what's up with the blood smell.

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf said...

Hmmm... I've this one on my shelves just waiting to be read. I've heard some really good things about it and some indifferent things.

I've not seen anyone downright dislike it, so I'll likely still read it at some point., probably for my challenge at the end of the year.

Even though I can't enter the contest (live in the UK) my favourite villain, has to be Mayor Prentiss from Chaos Walking.

So many contradicting facets to his personality, totally fascinating character!

Leslie said...

I read the first book and found it very interesting. I'm looking forward to reading more of them. I'm currently reading the Mortal Instruments series, and I think that Valentine is a very interesting villain. Thanks for the contest!

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I'm going to call out a lame villian. She hails from the novel Plus by Veroica Chambers. Her name is Savannah Hughes and she's out to get the main character, Bee. Bee has stolen her spotlight and Savannah wants it back. She does all sorts of things to mess with Bee, including drugging her with horse tranquilizers. She's kinda evil, but not in a supermodel/ diva way, just jealous and petty.

Great giveaway!

mrsderaps @ hotmail . com

Sara Power said...

Read the others, they get worse and better at the same time. They're such a disaster that it becomes entertaining.

Don't read them all at the same time though. They're long so you need to give yourself a break.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I'm sorry to hear this didn't work so well for you Lenore! I know I really enjoy the series, but it is very dark and gory and it does take long before the characters gain layers. We learn more on Caine and the others on the later books, but if you don't enjoy it this much already, it is a long road before you get some answers. What I enjoy about the series is what you mentioned in the good points : how realistically Grant handles the "What if adults disappeared" question, even though it gets to a really dark place (and even more so in the next book).

I like that you did a list though; that's a good way to give a clear idea of your thoughts! And I'm so glad Dystopian August is finally here (even if I'm a little late to the party ;) )

Tia said...

My students have had mixed feelings about this series, but it might be interesting to try.

I think one of the coolest villains recently is Mayor Prentiss from Ness' series. I love the way he gets more complicated as the series goes on, even though I still loathed him the entire time.

Orchid said...

Sounds like an interesting series... minus the talking wolves that is, but it still sounds pretty good. ^_^

Coolest villain/baddie *hehehe*: Ulquiorra from Bleach. Because even though he is only the fourt in the espada, he seems to be pulling most of the strings.

hauntingorchid (at) aol (dot) com

~The Book Pixie said...

Ok I did not like The Lord of the Flies when I read it. I thought it had great overall messages but enjoyment factor was just really low for me. However, I've really been wanting to read this series and would like to give it a shot.

As for favorite villians, my favorite group villian would be The Enclave from Bithmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien; my favorite individual villian would be Hadrian from Angel Star by Jennifer Murgia.

Thanks for the awesome giveaway!


Kaitlyn (Kaitlyn in Bookland) said...

Thanks so much for the contest!

My favorite villain of all time is Voldemort. A more recent one would have to be The Capitol from The Hunger Games. They are so twisted.


ibeeeg said...

It was very interesting to read your take on this book. I am curious, and the first two books are sitting in my daughter's room...unread.
Once she reads them, it will be interesting to see what she thinks.

Thanks for your insights as they gave me a better idea as to what the story is about.

Julie said...

Since I'm re-reading the Hunger Games, my favorite villain of the moment is Cato. Thanks for the contest!

Tina said...

So I agree with other comments that named President Snow and Voldemort, but one "villian" who I thought was both lame and awesome at the same time is Dimitri from Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series: lame because... well I still have an issue with that particular twist, let's just say. Awesome because it forces Rose to face not only to defeat him mentally and physically, but also emotionally. I really would hate to be in her position.

Thanks for the giveaway! I've wanted to read these books for a while now.
melodiousrevelry (at) gmail (dot) com

Dahlia said...

Nice review, and great contest!

The best villain I have ever encountered is The Shadow Lord from the Deltora series. He beats all other villains with his evilness. He destroyed one country, took over another for about 17 years, poisoned a land, and killed and tortured thousands of people. Doesn't get much more evil than that.

eclecticdahlia [at] aol [dot] com

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

Nailer's dad in Ship Breaker was pretty terrifying!!! I'd love to win all three of these. There ones I've wanted to read but haven't gotten a chance, even though your review has made me wonder!

Krista/Tower of Books said...

Count me in.

My favorite villains have been Maleficent (from Disney's Sleeping Beauty) and Voldemort. Maleficent, in my opinion, is by far the most vicious disney villian. As for Voldemort, I really loved learning his back story, especially how the orphan-theme paralleled between him, Harry, and Snape.

Pokadots1121 said...

This is a great contest! Umm.. the coolest villian I know is Spiderman. I was just reading an article about a new Spiderman, and I love those movies.I can't wait until the next movie comes out.

(Bookish)InABox said...

I would love a chance to read these! Thanks!

The best villain is Ursula from The Little Mermaid. It's been 20 years since I first saw it, and I *still* can't watch the whole thing without covering my eyes.

whatinabox at gmail dot com

PeechieKeen said...

I guess my favorite villain to encounter lately is the start of a new school year. Not really a person, but heinous anyway!

Julie! said...

I really liked Valentine from the Mortal Instruments!

Jess (The Cozy Reader) said...

I've had my eye on this series for quite a while.

I'm not sure if I can think of a cool or lame villain but the worst villain I've seen to date is Calvin Malone in Rachel Vincent's Shifter series. HATED him. Bastard. :)

throuthehaze said...

Some other people already said it but the most interesting villain is President Snow from the Hunger Games. He is seriously creepy.
throuthehaze at gmail dot com

Meredith said...

Voldemort--lame, because he was beaten by a young boy! Even with a following of Death Eaters!

meredithfl at gmail dot com

Melissa said...

Hm, your review makes me hesitant, but, hey, free books! And sometimes, you just need a good laugh.

Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes me smile. He thinks he's FIERCE.
President Snow from the Hunger Game's doesn't make me smile, he just creeps me out.

Brooke said...

This series sounds pretty interesting. This is actually the first I've heard of it.

The lamest villain I've encountered lately (and also the most amusing) is Vector from the movie Despicable Me.

Camilla45242 said...

The villain i like the best is probably president snow or selia (the goose girl)
My email is

Amelia said...

I really want to read this series, despite the talking wolves! :D The lamest villian: I just finished Spells by Aprilynne Pike and I must say Barnes gets even worse in this book.

Ladytink_534 said...

I would love to win this!

I haven't read any lame villians lately really but I guess Laurell K. Hamilton's Marmee Noir since though she's scary, she doesn't really do much so far.


donnas said...

Thanks for sharing! I have heard good things about this series and would like to try it out. Thanks for the chance!

The lamest villian is Voldemort. Seriously he should have just stopped.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Anonymous said...

I liked the premise better than the actual story. The first book was OK, but the second book got even sillier...I don't think I'm going to be reading number three.

Christina said...

One of the books I read recently was Fool's Girl by Celia Rees, which I quite enjoyed. It is a sequel to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, my favorite play. The characters were fun, except that the villains just didn't cut it. Rees used Malvolion and Sir Andrew from the play as her villains and I just cannot take them seriously because they were so unlike their characters in the play. Malvolio is ever cross-gartered in my mind and maybe he could be evil, but I doubt his getting that powerful. Sir Andrew was even harder to believe; I mean, I just cannot imagine him being a fine swordsman. They were also more easily dispatched than any real villain has any right to be.

Nova said...

I've read Gone (haven't gotten around to the rest of the series yet, though), and I have to actually disagree with you on the Caine point. I liked him. Not the most layered character of all time, or whatever, but the cement stunt especially established him as a perfectly good villain in my opinion. (My review's here: )

Now, the giveaway: I LOVE Vetinari from the Discworld series - he's quite possibly the best character of all time, protagonist OR antagonist. But I don't know if he entirely technically counts as a villain. If not, I'd have to go with Valentine from Mortal Instruments.

novapsych674 at aim dot com

Laura said...

Awesome contest!

I think the coolest villian I've found lately is Valentine in The Mortal Instruments series. He has so much history!

laurabt @ cox . net

Maddie M. said...

I want to be entered!
About the villains... probably Cato or President Snow from the Hunger Games.(:

ellenmelon771 said...

I love these books, so when I first read your review, I did think you were being a bit harsh about certain aspects of the book.
However, I respect your opinion, and I can completely understand why many people find it too far-fetched. I, however, really like those aspects (such as the talking coyotes, superpowers and The Darkness). It makes the all ready quite ruthless story just that little bit more textured and thrilling.
I have read all the books out so far (up to Plague), and I can tell you that Diana does start to have doubts about Caine, and becomes less cliched. I can also say that the books get more thrilling but also more gruesome as they go on,so they're not really for squeamish people.
My sister started reading Gone the other day, and she feels the beginning is too slow. I can see where she's coming from; it does take the characters a while to actually start doing anything of real interest.
I think it also helps that I had to finish Gone, because I was reading it for a book group. I was also introduced to it by someone who loves the series as much as I do, which probably helped to shape my opinion towards the series.
Finally, I've never read Lord of the Flies, but I know what the general idea of it is; I think the similarities between the two books is due to the fact that Michael Grant wanted to show what would happen if what happened in LOTF was on a much bigger scale, and in the modern day.
I absolutley adore these books, but I can completely understand why they're not for everyone.

ellenmelon771 said...

I don't want to be really picky or a nerd or anything, but the character's name is 'Lana', not ,'Lena'.