The short opening chapter of Gone is great – sitting in class, Sam’s staring out of the window dreaming about surfing rather than paying attention. Then without a warning, the teacher vanishes. Along with every other adult and child over the of 15 in their town.
It’s a gripping, bold start, which I loved. Major characters are introduced very early on and whilst they are pretty stereotypical, there’s a few more unusual ones to keep things fresh. The children left, all under 14, at first are completely bewildered – torn between mourning their parents and enjoying the sudden eat-all-can-candy or the ability to stay up all night playing X-Box with nobody telling them what to do.
Michael Grant’s prose style is fairly plain – quite typical of YA fiction which, actually, I find a bit of shame. One of the major things I often notice about teenagers is that their vocabulary is less advanced than I would expect. Whilst there’s some things we can do about that, there really is no better way to improve your vocabulary than reading and when teenagers just read YA fiction like this, they’re not going to be expanding their vocabulary which is a shame. Someone like John Green, however, has a much broader range.
Anyway. What his style does do is make it incredibly easy to race through these novels which, at 556 pages, are not insubstantial. Grant also goes much further in the violence he’s willing to show on the page. Golding gets pretty brutal at times with his deaths but he also tempers it by shying away from showing every one – the ones that shown are shocking as a result. Grant here imagines a world of children quickly turned feral, and turning on each other. Contrary to some Amazon reviews I did find the descriptions of violence quite graphic. It’s incredibly disturbing at times. There’s also inevitable comparisons with The Hunger Games; whilst I found Katniss and Gale far more compelling characters the characters in this book, the raw visceral nature of this was more than enough to pull me along into the series.