Post-apocalyptic YA: The Dead and the Gone

The Dead and the Gone, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

How the world ends: A meteor hits the moon, knocking it into an orbit closer than earth; tidal waves, earthquakes, and mass volcanic eruptions result from the moon’s increased gravitational pull.

A companion volume to Life As We Knew It. We’re in Manhattan this time around, which ought to make us feel closer to those tidal effects, but you know how it is in Manhattan: walk just a few blocks and you’re in another world. Lower Manhattan may be flooded out, but we’re 50 blocks or more north of that, and never see much more than a few damp streets. So as in the first book, we’re pretty much viewing the effects of the catastrophe, rather than the catastrophe itself, though of course there’s tension enough in that.

The biggest problem with the end of the world (especially an end of the world where volcanic eruptions block the sun and stop things from growing) is obtaining enough food to survive. But while Life As We Knew It left me wanting to hoard food, The Dead and the Gone left me wanting to band together with my neighbors, pool our resources, and generally find some more altruistic solution to the crisis. Not because the characters in The Dead and the Gone did this, but because–with a few notable exceptions–they more or less coped in the same ways they coped in Life As We Knew It. Only the second way around, having been here before, I had more mental time for questioning whether this really was the only way to survive.

Though connections do play something more of a role in this book than in the first–but those connections are mostly the province of the rich and powerful, and even our protagonist’s story would be very different, arguably, if not for his few tenuous links to same.

Which brings up an interesting question: is the end of the world is a great leveler that would make class distinctions stop mattering, or the ultimate case of “those with money and connections survive.” Depends how the world ends, no doubt.

Anyway, the day-to-day details of survival remained harrowing (in Manhattan there are enough people that you can’t avoid seeing the bodies) enough to make this still a very compelling, couldn’t-put-it-down-until-I-was-finished sort of read.

And as with the first book, I had vivid dreams while reading it. (I don’t remember most of them. But I know that at some point they involved people hoarding food, while I vainly tried to explain to them that hanging onto canned vegetables wouldn’t do them half as much good as stocking up on bags of rice and dried beans.)

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