Following on from last week’s Shadow Puppets, this was another sequel which was a bit of a let-down, and perhaps unnecessary. The first three books I loved, especially the first two (Life as we Knew it, The Dead and the Gone) which followed in diary form the lives of Val and Alex (the former with the first book, and the latter with the second, and the third brought the two together). But what sets the book apart is that it follows them after an asteroid collides with the moon sending it closer to Earth, throwing the planet in chaos, as the tides rise, earthquakes rumble, volcanoes erupt. Both books were seriously depressing because of their rawness and ability to suck you in. But this book, was into the future and follows Val’s brother Jon, who is now living in this ‘enclave’. And so begins the very dystopian story of the upper class vs the lower class.So immediately Jon is damn annoying, which is fine, he’s supposed to be, because he’s a sheltered (even in the end of the world) white boy, who thinks he deserves everything and that there’s nothing wrong in the world. Who cares that the ‘clavers’ rule over the ‘grubbers’ just because they happen to be ‘necessary’ for society. But actually the grubbers are damn necessary, who’s going to grow your food, cook for you, clean for you? Essentially it’s a whole story about Jon realising, with the help of the ‘righteous’ female, Sarah, that things aren’t right in this world. And of course the two of them are a ‘thing’, but he can’t openly admit it for ages because his other ‘friends’ don’t like her (because her father replaced his grandfather as the doctor, who had allegations against him – and because he was there for 50 years he deserved better). She’s the one who helps the grubbers at the clinic, and tries in class to point out the injustice, which of course fails.
Jon is on the soccer team, which is apparently so very important, so that they can show the grubbers who’s boss, and smash their teams. And their coach is psychotic, because he was so mad that the grubbers scored two goals, instead of one. Like they drive these kids all over the state (?) to go to these matches, and I don’t really think it works to quell the grubbers. And then of course we come to a climax where they play in White Birch (the nearest, and ‘best’, grubber town). Their team is good, compared to all the others, almost better than they are (because they don’t properly play, they just all think they are forwards and the star, so their defence is pathetic). But all hell breaks loose, and a brawl breaks out, then the police start shooting and killing grubbers willingly. And the clavers have to send the grubbers a message. This essentially causes the whole place to implode, because heaps of grubber workers are killed, and replacements are needed so they have to take grubber children. It’s a nightmare. And, it’s what causes Jon’s mother to be killed. She and Val and Alex are living in White Birch because they only had three passes into the enclave (which Alex got from the church).
Jon has a lot of guilt over ‘killing’ Alex’s sister, Julie. Now I had completely forgotten what went on in the last book apart from a hurricane/tornado which caused a lot of damage causing the family to hit the road. But Julie got caught up in the tornado and broke her spine, and Val gave her an overdose of pills to kill her, so she didn’t suffer. Well Jon believes that he was responsible. And frankly he was. He tried to rape her, no question about it, and she ran off, and he chased her tried to calm her down, and then realising the danger she was in, protect her. Of course she ran more. The disgusting thing is that when he finds out that Val gave her the pills, which actually killed her, he gets angry at her, and basically absolves himself of all blame. And he convinces himself that he wasn’t raping her. I’m hoping that Pfeffer is trying to critique ‘rape culture’ with this, but, I’m not sure it was pulled off completely. I mean Jon then tried to, not quite rape but still unacceptable, Sarah to protect her, by making her hate him, so she would stay away.
Jon is actually living with his mother-in-law (his father dying on the road) and their son, Gabe (another child who is too privileged and acts like a brat). And for a long while Jon’s excuse for Sarah is that their evaluation is coming up so he can’t piss anyone off, or they could get kicked out. In the end, when Alex and Val decide to leave (after the riot, but they were going to anyway), Gabe is taken with them. Jon is ever the idiot and goes back, and finds his mother in law dead by her own hand, and now he’s somewhat trapped. He then tries to save their grubber help, who we find out later swapped with her twin at the last moment. So he gets married to her, so that the police don’t take her (which is the strangest thing I’ve heard), but that means he loses his place in the enclave so has to leave. The pair of them make their way to the others, but it’s a tough life and Jon grows as a person. And in the end, they live happily ever after, because he finds out that Sarah will live with them, even though she was going to be elsewhere.
So yeah, it was okay. As I said, probably unnecessary, and that comes from someone who always wants to know more about a story. But in this case, the more wasn’t that great. I think the first two (the third I think also worked, but I have less memory of it) worked really well cause it was an exciting and novel idea, and it was a true fight for survival. Which is the type of story I love reading. But this one became a novel which is probably like many others trying to cash in on the dystopia wave, and have the rich vs poor theme. I really don’t think any further sequel is necessary.