Friday, September 26, 2008

Susan Beth Pfeffer's The Dead and The Gone

Alex Morales is working in a pizza parlor and worrying about getting into a good college. Then a meteor knocks the sun out of alignment, and his worries turn more to keeping his two sisters safe and alive in a New York city devastated by flooding, extreme temperatures and deadly flu.

Excuse me, but I have to run to the store to buy 300 jars of peanut butter now. It worked for the people in The City of Ember to stock pile food, but given the cataclysmic world that Alex is facing, perhaps I should go the route of On The Beach, except that I don't know where one would buy cyanide tablets.

This is the sequel to Life As We Knew It, and I wasn't sure at first that I liked it, because it told the story of a completely different character. Then it sucked me in. Surviving in a city would be very different from surviving in the country. There would be advantages and disadvantages, and Pfeffer lays them all out in a riveting and gut wrenching book. Unflinchingly, she describes how Alex and his sister strip possessions off the dead bodies on the street so they can trade watches and clothing for food. I could only read a little of this at a time, since we recently had power outages due to wind storms and it hit a little close to home. Middle school students who like survival stories will be enthralled by this.

One of the best parts of this book is the portrayal of the teachers in the schools that Alex and his sister Julie attend. They help the remaining students survive by creating a community to help them. And this cover is great. I can't find a picture of the original paperback of Life, but it wasn't nearly as riveting.

The now justly famous Ms. Pfeffer has a blog at


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