Author: Michael Grant

Publication: Harper Teen, 2008 & 2009

Pages: 576

Overall Rating:  bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:

In the blink of any eye everyone in Perdido Beach over the age of 14 vanishes.  When Sam Temple and his friends set out to discover what has happened they find an impenetrable sphere surrounding the entire town.  It’s like being trapped in a bubble.  At first, it feels like a party, but when the parents don’t come back reality begins to sink in.  They’re alone.  But that’s only the beginning of their troubles.  Before long some of the kids begin developing strange, mutant powers, and before they know it, the kids of Perdido Beach – both mutants and normals – have been plunged into an all out war with the kids from nearby Coates Academy.  Who will win?  Who will survive?  And what will happen to Sam on his 15th birthday?  Because in Perdido Beach, when you hit 15, you disappear.

Age of Main Character: Multiple main characters aged 14 to 15

What I Liked the Most: I liked the fact that there truly were no adults in this story.  No matter how bad things got, the kids in Perdido Beach had no one to rely on but each other.   And Grant doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to making their lives difficult.  He throws one challenge after another at them, providing some of his characters with the chance to fail while others rise to the occasion.  Some of the kids buckle under the pressure, get angry, even wish for their parents.  But in the end, Grant leaves them with no option but to either stand up for themselves or die.

By adding superpowers to the story, Grant ran the risk of letting it devolve into a comic book, a stark battle between absolute good and absolute evil where everyone knows from the start what side they’re on.  But he doesn’t let that happen.  There are a few characters who style themselves as superheroes, and a few who are happy to play the role of villain, but many others fall into some gray area in between, often as likely to curse the powers they’ve been given as anything else.

What I Liked the Least: This is a minor point, but while the constant switching around between different characters and points of view never got confusing – and ultimately made the novel more engaging – it did get frustrating at times.  You might be following one story line with things getting tense and exciting, then the chapter ends and it switches to a new story line, and a new one after that, and it’s 50 or more pages till you get back to that first story line to see how it gets resolved.

And of course some of the stories and characters were less interesting than others, so there was the frustration of having to leave off a good story line for one that I didn’t find as engaging.

How Good was the Action?  Excellent and quite varied.  The scenes aren’t always blow-by-blow, but they are tense.  When the action is hot, Grant writes in clipped sentences to keep the pace racing forward.  Some of the scenes are especially good.  Near the end of the book, for example, there’s an all out battle between Coates and Perdido Beach.  A group of half-sentient coyotes attack the town and kids from Perdido Beach are blasting away with machine guns.  At the same time, Sam and Cain – the leader of the kids from Coates – are engaged in a deadly super-powered fight, a church full of kids is collapsing, and a boy with a snake-like whip hand is fighting another kid whose body is made of gravel.  It’s all happening at once in quick back-and-forth sequences, the tension and speed boiling off the page.

How Engaging was the Story?   These are long books, more than 550 pages each, but Grant does a great job of keeping the story pumping along.  He has a number of major characters and flips between them on a regular basis, juggling half a dozen or more story lines at any one time.  That could have been confusing, but it isn’t.  Instead, it helped keep me engaged, reading on, wanting to know how each story line would end.

Grant’s characters are full and vivid, with great relationships, moral dilemmas, and uncertainties.  It doesn’t take long to get attached to them and to feel concerned about their welfare.  And since threats lie around every corner in this world, I often found myself on the edge of my seat wondering how one or another character would survive.

Overall Assessment: This is a great book.  The characters are well drawn, the action is intense, and the story line is highly imaginative.  It was so easy to get drawn into Grant’s world that I often found myself dreaming about it.  And if that’s not the hallmark of a great book then I don’t know what is.

Profanity: None or very little

Sex: Not much.  There’s some kissing and a bit of mild romance, and a few of the characters do fantasize about each other but not in any graphic terms.

Violence: Yes.  There are numerous fights among the kids and people definitely die.  There’s only a few times when it’s extremely graphic, but this can be a violent novel.  There are incidents of torture, of people being horribly injured, and of people being killed.

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