Review: The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Dead & The Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event–an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex’s parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle.

With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful new novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.

Title: The Dead and the Gone (Last Survivors #2)
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publication date: June 1, 2008

The Dead and the Gone is the second book in the Last Survivors series and takes place at the same time as Life as We Knew It.

Remember what I said in my review of Life as We Knew It about getting rid of the parents? The Dead and the Gone does just that. Papi is away in Puerto Rico and Mami is at work in Queens when the moon is knocked out of its orbit. Neither makes it home. In this case I didn’t mind so much because I had just read a book with a parent in charge and it was a nice change to have Alex, a high school junior, trying to find his way and provide for his sisters after their parents’ presumed deaths. I don’t mean a nice change. That’s terrible! It’s what made this book different from the first one, that’s all.

They may not realize it and there are certainly challenges, but Alex and his sisters Brianna and Julie have an easier time than the characters in Life as we Knew It. Being in a city helps; there are a lot more resources and even though food is scarce, the situation doesn’t seem as dire. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy either. Alex has to do some things he never would have even thought about before just to survive and to keep bringing food home to his sisters.

I didn’t agree with all of his decisions, but every time I felt like he was trying to do what he thought was right. He just wanted his sisters to be safe and alive. Once again, just like in Life as We Knew It, personal safety isn’t as big an issue as I would expect it to be. I guess the author just chose to only touch on that aspect and wanted to ignore it for the most part.

Alex’s family, especially Brianna, is very religious. Their faith is mentioned A LOT and it’s a little over the top at times. The Church is helpful, though, for as long as it can be. The siblings all attended Catholic school and the schools are able to stay open and even provide some meals for them. The priest at their church uses his contact to try to find out about Alex’s father’s village in Puerto Rico, which showed me that communications aren’t totally cut off. Miranda’s town in Life as We Knew It seemed fairly isolated and I don’t know that even most of the town government officials had access to any higher authority figures. Through the church and through acquaintances from school, Alex is also able to get glimpses into how the more influential people live: quite well, albeit not as well as they had previously.

One thing that bothered me was that Alex and his sisters were living in a large, mostly and eventually completely empty, apartment building and they didn’t go into the other apartments and round up whatever supplies were there. It was finally explained that NYC apartments have steel doors so they couldn’t just break them down. But his father was the building superintendent, so shouldn’t he have had keys to all those apartments? They would have had a lot more food if they had been able to gain access to every apartment in the building and I don’t feel like I was given a good enough explanation why they didn’t.

Even though I was initially wary because The Dead & The Gone introduced new characters, I ending up liking it almost as much as Life as We Knew It. I appreciated it for giving me a different view of the same events. Alex and his family have to struggle to survive just like Miranda and hers do. Their different locations and the lack of resources, in Miranda’s case, make their experiences entirely different.

five stars