Goodreads: In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE. Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.
It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...
I'm going to start out with the disclaimer that I somehow missed that this book is part of a series. I mean, I thought maybe it would be a trilogy (let's be real, everything is a trilogy these days). I have no idea how I missed that as there's an ENTIRE 6 BOOKS so clearly this has been common knowledge for a while. So it's my own fault I was frustrated, as I didn't realize is was a series. On the upside, at least all the books in the series are out so I won't go mad waiting to find out what happens. So just note that although I might have a frustrated tone, some of that is caused by my own idiocy.
This is a really mature middle grade novel. In some parts it's clear that it's for a younger audience, like when the author has a character say words (Astrid is a smart girl as one of the main characters, so she uses big words constantly), and then explains what they mean. But on the flip side, Grant deals with some pretty mature concepts and it can be really graphic. When all the adults disappear, it doesn't just gradually slip into Lord of the Flies territory. People died in car accidents when adults suddenly disappear. Stoves and ovens were left on from those who were cooking. Babies were abandoned in homes and died since there was no one to take care of them. It's pretty dark honestly.
On the flip side of dealing with the reality of everything that would happen (and I think Grant made a very accurate description of how things would go down if this happened), there are also super powers involved. I think I would have loved the book just from what I was describing above. The super powers I think in the long run are going to play an important role, and I did like them here, but it started to change the feel from survivalist to super hero.
To make this a little easier as I talk a little more details I'll give you a quick lowdown on the characters I mention, as they aren't mentioned at all in the summary.
Sam: Natural leader, has super powers
Astrid: Genius, Sam's love interest
Quinn: Sam's ex? best friend
Cain: Anti Sam
Drake - psychopath
There are actually easily about 10 more important characters. That may actually play a part in why I had a hard time loving this book. There are so many main characters it's overwhelming. I mean if you were to simplify it, I suppose Sam is a main character? But the other characters are side characters in the way that Ron and Hermione are side characters (aka, they aren't at all). The criticisms I'm about to give aren't reasons I'm not loving the book, I honestly could look past all of them, so again, I have no idea why I'm not crazy fangirling over this series.
I found the romance really distracting and weird. I think it's just that I found the rest of the book so engaging that I could honestly care less about Sam and Astrid. I also wish we saw more moments where Sam and Quinn are very good friends. The disappearance happens in the first sentence (or two?) of the book, and things start getting jenky really quickly, so their relationship deteriorates pretty much right from the start. We're only told they were best friends, we don't ever see it. I'm also torn on how Quinn was portrayed. He's the only one who is portrayed as not being able to handle his fear and I think this is the only part Grant didn't nail realistically. I think there would be a lot more people willing to betray others, people who are inherently good, but who are cowards. Quinn desperately wants to be brave, but he just couldn't do it. This may partially be a set up for a long term plan Grant has put into motion as there are 5 more books, I'm not sure. But he really seemed to focus on Quinn being a coward (*note, I'm adding this in as I've just finished the 2nd book, and Quinn really is a pretty cool guy. I wish we had seen more of that character in this book)
I also don't understand why Caine becomes the focal point for the epic battle at the end. Yes he is clearly set up to be Sam's nemesis, but
*SPOILERS* It turns out he's Sam's twin brother, younger by a few minutes. So technically he'll go through the FAYZ after Sam as when you turn 15 you get "blinked" out. So wouldn't you want to focus on getting rid of Drake who is legitimately a psychopath? Technically Caine is going to be gone too, so beating him doesn't seem like a smart end goal to me *END SPOILERS*
I think the other reason I couldn't really get into the book is the slow pacing. Slow pacing usually doesn't bother me, but the book is so fast paced that it's weird. Here's what I mean since that seems contradictory: You have NO idea what is going on at the beginning. Not a clue. Is it God? Is it aliens? Is it the military? Are they in a parallel universe? Is there a world outside the FAYZ? You get a lot of theories and a hint of an answer at the end, but that's it. NONE OF THOSE QUESTIONS ARE ANSWERED AND IT KILLED ME. On the flip side, it is so action packed you don't even have a moment to take a breath, so it is very fast-paced in that sense. I found it extremely frustrating, and a good part of that is likely that I thought this was the only book.
I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book and I'm beginning to believe either there is going to be a really shoddy resolution covered in ten pages or something really fishy is going on.
I'm about 20 pages from the end and google what on earth is going on because NOTHING HAS BEEN EXPLAINED. Discover there are 5 more book.
Honestly, those are my only negative criticisms of the book. There is so much I LOVED about this book. I really think that if this ever happened in real life, this is exactly how it would go down. It was scarily realistic, I could definitely imagine myself in their situation. And while I'm not sure having so many main characters is logistically great for a novel, it is also exactly how it would be going down in real life, with everything coming up simultaneously. I also think that Sam's portrayal is great - I mean he is a 14 year-old kid having to deal with the responsibilities of a government leader and a parent in a way, over a bunch of other scared kids. And he doesn't want to do it. But I do believe certain people just fall into those roles because people automatically look up to them (unlike people like Caine...and all politicians ever who DO want that role). Also oh my goodness the diversity! There are kids of all races! There wasn't one token guy from a race - there were a few scattered here and there, just like you would expect in a small town in California. And the women aren't damsels in distress. It was so, so nice to have an even playing field for race and gender. Very refreshing.
I think this has the potential to be an awesome series. I'm a bit frustrated that more information wasn't given. I'm only about 2% less clueless as to what happened than I was at the start of the book. That being said, there's five more books in the series, so the slow development can potentially be forgiven. If you are ok with a slow paced, but very intense series, definitely check this out. There were so many great things about the book that I am extremely interested in where Grant is going to take this series!
"Hi, Mary," Dahra said. "What do we have here?"
"I'm so sorry to bother you," Mary said. "I know how busy you are. But she has some kind of pain in her stomach."
The conversation actually lasts a full two pages. This is particularly impressive since this book primarily follows a male character, although occasionally we get glimpses of the other characters of the book (like this one)