Throughout the years, many fads have come and go in teen fiction. The Harry Potter series made fantasy a big seller in bookstores. Then the Twilight series gave birth to “teen paranormal romance.” The newest trend is dystopian fiction.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary Dystopia is an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.One notable example of this genre is the Gone series by Michael Grant.
Gone tells the story of a small town in California that has been overrun with radiation. The kids in the area begin to mutate and develop super-powers. The story begins with Sam, the main character in class. The all of the teachers and some of the students disappear leaving only children under the age of 14 .
The children have to learn to work together in order to keep the town running. Some individuals learn to profit from the situation. One boy , Albert, finds and reopens a McDonalds in order to stockpile items like batteries and toilet paper. Others such as siblings “Mother Mary” and “Brother John” Terrafino take in all the “littles,” or kids too young to take care of themselves. Sam becomes the leader by being the only person willing to give people directions in the middle of the crisis.
The story is essentially a modern take on Lord of the Flies. We can even see some of the same characters form. There are Sam and Ralph the one child trying to be the voice of reason. The private school up in the nearby mountains with their leader Caine are the same as the choir boys and their leader Jack. The main difference in characters is the evil force at work on each island.
In Lord of the Flies the evil is more metaphorical evil that is the evil in man. In the Gone series with evil is given a name and a face. It does influence people and use their dark nature for its own good, but it is an actual physical being named the Gaiaphage, literally Earth’s parasite. The basic storyline is exactly the same.
One of the major differences between stories is that in Lord of the Flies the “littluns” are left to fend for themselves. In the Gone series they are taken care of by some “responsible” teenagers. The result? The 14 year old taking care of them starts popping anti-depressants like candy to deal with her bulimia, anorexia, and depression.
In the end, she is confused by Gaiaphage, and told that if she kills herself she will go home. Still trying to be the “mother” to all the small children, she decides to take them with her when she jumps off a cliff. In the end all the littles are saved and Mary is remembered only for her last madness.
The books also delve further into the madness and brutality of man (and woman) than Lord of the Flies. The kids are strung out for a much longer period of time, and it really shows the conflicted personalities many of the children develop. It also shows how growing up too fast can be detrimental to children.
The children choose Sam to be their leader, but later on decide that he has too much power, and try to only use him as law enforcement.
All in all, the book was a fantastic, thrilling read. This book will appeal to those who enjoyed the Hunger Games series as the themes of how a situation affects the morals of a person.