Gone by Michael Grant (Apr 2009, Egmont Books Ltd, ISBN: 1405242345)
First Lines: One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone.
Review: Gone is the first part of a projected six part series; I didn't know this when I first started it. The second part, Hunger, is now available in the US and the UK edition will be out next April.
In the blink of an eye, everyone fifteen and older vanishes leaving the Californian coastal town of Perdido Beach in chaos, from babies losing their carers to cars losing their drivers. It soon becomes clear that Perdido Beach is cut off physically and electronically from the world they knew before. The area is nicknamed the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone).
The eldest people left do the best they can to maintain a system with rudimentary healthcare, food provision and daycare. The natural leader is Sam Temple, who already prevented a bus crash a few years ago, but he shies away from the job and instead goes off with his friend Quinn and Astrid the Genius to search for her autistic four year old brother, Little Pete.
His reluctance leaves the way open for Caine and his followers to come down from the private school, Coates, and take charge. However their rule is based on power and intimidation and soon some very unpleasant things are happening, including murder. The scene is set for a showdown between good and evil and Caine plays dirty.
Each chapter heading shows how many hours are left until Sam turns 15. What will happen to him? Can he take out Caine before then and leave the FAYZ safe?
Gone is a thrilling read, the 570p fly by. The story moves between many characters and how they are coping with their new situation. There are some hints as to what caused the FAYZ but very little is explained about the how and why and in fact the people of Perdido Beach are not exactly normal themselves. Or at least not all of them. Some of the animals are rather strange as well...
The showdown at the end of the book is comparable to the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but whereas we waited 7 books for that final confrontation, this is only the first book, so what happens next? Roll on next April...
Cover: The running figure screams "thriller" and is perhaps aimed more at male readers. It's certainly eye catching - it got my attention in the book shop.
The official Gone website is here.