Hello everyone and happy Friday! Today, we’re pleased to do something a little bit different on the blog. We are presenting you with a joint review, but it’s not a joint review between Ana and Thea – this time, it’s a conversational review between Thea and her younger sister (and soon to be high school student) Tara. Together, the sisters take on a shared love: the conclusion to Michael Grant’s amazing, superlative, horror/dystopian/SFF series, Light!
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Dystopian, Horror, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication date: April 2013
Hardcover: 411 pages
It’s been over a year since all the adults disappeared. Gone.
In the time since everyperson over the age of fourteen disappeared from the town of Perdido Beach, California, countless battles have been fought: battles against hunger and lies and plague, and epic battles of good against evil. And now, the gaiaphage has been reborn as Diana’s malicious mutant daughter, Gaia. Gaia is endlessly hungry for destruction. She yearns to conquer her Nemesis, Little Pete, and then bend the entire world to her warped will. As long-standing enemies become allies, secrets are revealed and unexpected sacrifices are made. Will their attempts to save themselves and one another matter in the end, or will the kids of Perdido Beach perish in this final power struggle?
Light, the sixth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Gone series by Michael Grant, creates a masterful, arresting conclusion to life in the FAYZ.
Stand alone or series: The sixth and final book in the GONE series (NOOOOOO!)
How did we get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): Ebook
REVIEW & DISCUSSION
1. Lets talk about darkness and YA – not THE Darkness, but darkness in general. The GONE series features some horrific stuff – murder, torture, mutilation, cannibalization… How dark is TOO DARK for YA? What if anything is off limits or off putting?
Tara: If you’ve read that article “Darkness Too Visible” written for the Wall Street Journal, you can tell what some parents consider to be too dark or too edgy for their child. So let’s not ever let kids – like me – read books with profanity, sex, substance abuse or graphic violence until our minds are mature enough. Otherwise, we might get too dark of an idea and send our entire class to a small island where they will fight to the death. This happens all the time, because we desire to be the characters we read about and we’re obviously not mature enough to comprehend the intensity of depression (which countless teens in the US have, by the way), suicide or death in general.
On a more serious note, though, I don’t really think there can be “too dark” of a situation in YA fiction. It’s supposed to push things to the limit with one thought still in mind: kids need something to relate to. I’m not saying we can all shoot beams out of our hands or cancel gravity, but we know that that we can relate to the characters. Sam struggled with responsibility. Astrid questioned her faith and morals. A lot of kids had problems with substance abuse. All of this sounds familiar, because they are real life problems–just taken to extremes.
Thea: First, I’m prefacing this answer with a completely biased but necessary statement: I love my wonderfully nerdy, eloquent little sister. And this is AWESOME, writing a review with her. AHEM.
There are a few things that really, really piss me off – at the top of that list are asshats that try to control what young adults read. The WSJ article Tara mentions has been the fodder of many posts across the internets, especially in YA/SFF book blogging circles, because of its ludicrous viewpoint and blatant ignorance. I love asking questions like this one (i.e. “how dark is TOO dark?”) because it is a lightning rod for discussion and a very revealing question, especially when asked of adults, parents, and authors.
In my opinion, nothing is off-limits. There is no such thing as “too dark” and I detest the idea of adults attempting to protect young readers from engaging with “dark” texts. “Protecting” young adults from reading things that might be too dark for their delicate sensibilities (that’s sarcasm) is the path that leads to censorship and banned books. Young adults are people. They are people who grapple with real issues – plenty of them “dark” – every single day. They are capable of reading and understanding and questioning things intelligently.
Michael Grant’s GONE series is one of the darkest, most frightening, and frankly awesome YA dystopian SFF series’ that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and I loved it wholeheartedly. (Clearly I love this book and have no problems recommending it – cannibalism, underage drug abuse, sex, murder, Darkness, and all – as I am the one who gave a copy to Tara a few short years ago.)
2. Overall, how do you think the GONE series carried off the plot? Satisfying? Unsuccessful? Did you feel like Michael Grant did right by his world and characters or not?
Tara: I am completely 100% satisfied with this series. The plot couldn’t have been any more gripping or suspenseful, because I might’ve died otherwise. Or lose a ton of sleep– which I admittedly did while reading the books. I stayed up until about 3 in the morning each time I got the next book. This isn’t just because of his intensely engrossing plot, though. I happen to have a thing for the “Children Forced To Kill” trope, à la Battle Royale, The Hunger Games and Animorphs (which, not to mention, was co-written by Michael Grant). I’m so easily compelled by a kid with a weapon, forcing themselves to act or die. It’s so wonderfully gruesome. The setting these kids are given is terribly… adult, and they have to learn how to take risks and survive.
He definitely did justice for the series, because I had very few issues. It was action-packed, brutal, full of death and gore. Nothing more I could ask for in a book. The ending was bittersweet but real, and I literally cried over finishing it all. I was done with something that made me so emotional. Conflicted. Something I didn’t want to say goodbye to. And yet, I had to and immediately realized it as I got down to the last 50 pages or so. Goddamn this series for ripping my heart out, but I also applaud its ability to have done that.
Thea: Agreed. I confess that I was scared to start Light because I was afraid of how Michael Grant would conclude this epic series. Would he do right by his characters? Would the Gaiaphage be thwarted, and if so, at what cost?
In many ways, Light is a less complex book than the five that preceded it. As many characters within say, it is the Endgame. The dome is now transparent and everyone outside can see just what has befallen the children of the FAYZ; the Gaiaphage has been born into human flesh; Little Pete has been killed but his spirit remains, hovering between dissipating forever and taking one last stand against the Darkness. As Gaia grows at her accelerated rate and starts picking off children one by one, there’s little time for anything else except action – that’s not a bad thing, but it means that Light is largely a Last Stand kind of book (think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2).
I knew that there would be plenty of death in this book, and I was expecting some of my favorites to go down. In all honestly, I was expecting the dome to implode, for all of the characters I’ve come to despise and love over the years to meet some terrible fate… Some of them do meet a terrible fate (and I was sniffling a bit, not going to lie, when one of my very favorites met a terrible demise). But I think the book ended in a way that is hopeful, and that does right by its main characters. I appreciated that very much – so well done, Michael Grant. Well done indeed.
3. Lets talk characters. Which were your favorites? Who did you hate? Who scared the crap outta you? Overall, did you like the huge cast of characters or was it overwhelming?
Tara: The GONE series had some wonderfully written and realistic characters. They deceived me into hope and despair countless times. They made me furious, confused, and sad. Kudos to Michael Grant’s compelling knowledge of teenagers.
My favorite characters in the series were Lana, Brianna, Dekka, Edilio and Orc. Each of them proved to be valuable and incredibly badass! Lana is charming, in her cold sort of way. Her stubbornness is also admirable. Brianna – or The Breeze, if you will – is funny and arrogant and suffers a mean case of Chronic Hero Syndrome with her foolish bravery. Dekka is intimidating and aggressively loyal, never leaving Sam’s side. Edilio grows and changes into a more stoic hero with the same loyalty as Dekka. While Orc is a big jerk in the first book, he proves himself to be a guy with a heart of gold. Totally underrated.
As you could see, Sam, Astrid, Caine and Diana weren’t on my favorites list. In fact, they’ve always been on my “so-so” list. In the first two books, Sam and Astrid really bugged the crap out of me. Too good to be true, really. They got a less irritating, though, as the books carried on. I mean, Astrid really got the rawness I was looking for in Fear- that was definitely an improvement. Sam had been just as redeemable. He questioned his leadership and made some dumb decisions, but he really grew into a real fighter. It was much more realistic. I didn’t have too much of a problem with Diana or Caine besides the fact they never really stuck out in the large cast of characters (but they did more so than Astrid and Sam as a couple). Sure, Caine did a lot at the end. But in the first few books, he pissed me off to no end. I’ll never understand how Diana manages to love him, but their whole dynamic is worth sitting through. So much more exciting than the vanilla relationship of Sam and Astrid.
To be honest, I had at least a little beef with most of the characters, but I’ll just go with the big bads… Starting with Drake Merwin. He’s one of those characters without a single good trait in his bones. There’s no redeeming qualities for him. He’s sadistic, blood-lusting, psychopathic, and a downright evil guy. He’s a monster, and not even one that bothers with charm or manipulation (à la Caine Soren, Tom Riddle, or Mitsuko Souma). He just wears that shark-like grin, swinging around his giant, terrible whip hand. He refused to die, so my pain while reading was unbearable. How many times had I yelled at him? How many times had I put the book down for a breather? Complained about the bastard to my friends? Enough to last a lifetime. I’ve had enough of Drake Merwin.
Another intolerable character was Zil Sperry. He was a real asshole from the start, teasing Duck. Going into the pool. Blowing up over a piece of beef jerky. Almost attacking Hunter. Blaming him for a death he indirectly caused. And, the worst thing he did? Form the Human Crew. This elitist, “no freaks allowed” band of vigilantes pissed me off to the ends of the world. I mean, he agreed to setting the goddamn beach on fire. I always found Zil and the Human Crew to be some sort of take Hitler and the Nazi party, because he was trying to seize power amidst chaos after setting the place aflame. Sound familiar? I was just relieved when he died, because I was really afraid he would make things worse. Thank you, Dekka.
I didn’t think I would dislike Penny as much as I did – it didn’t seem like she had much potential because she seemed meek at first. But boy oh boy, was I wrong. Penny was sadistic and insane, holding too much power for her own good. She was 12, for Christ’s sake. I mean, I didn’t really think she would snap the way she did. Make some poor guy claw his own eyes out. Cement Caine. Staple a “crown” to his head. I was terrified of her. Caine, as awful as he could be, didn’t deserve that sort of treatment.
I would talk about Gaia, but everything I really despise takes place in Light, and I would hate to spoil here. Anyways, there’s not much to be said. She IS the Gaiaphage, after all. Pure evil that eats people and sings Girls Just Wanna Have Fun on the side.
Overall, I feel the GONE series has had a GREAT cast of characters. They were bad-ass, entertaining, frustrating, and despair-inducing down to the bone. The variety is also to be admired. There were different races, ethnicities, sexualities– everyone differed in some way. I also thought that the amount of people introduced were perfect. Not to mention, they died like hotcakes sell, so we didn’t have to deal with TOO much.
Kudos to Michael Grant for making everyone so real to me.
Thea: This is VERY interesting – if I had to list my favorite characters in the series they would be: Brianna, Orc, Dekka, Caine, Lana, Edilio, and… Drake. Yes. Drake. I won’t say anything about Brianna, Orc, Dekka, Lana or Edilio because she’s covered it all so well – but I do think I need to say something about the central characters of Sam, Astrid, Caine…and Drake.
I agree with Tara in that Sam and Astrid are FINE characters, but they are just so freaking predictable. And heroic. Actually, that’s kind of doing them a disservice, because something I think Michael Grant does so well over the course of this series is his ability to make you HATE characters, and then show them change, grow, and even in some cases be redeemed (sort of). Sam starts out the series as a typical hero type of character, but I love that he’s actually NOT a good leader. He’s a great general and warrior, but he’s utter crap at organizing and managing the community – that’s where Edilio steps in and won my heart with his organizational skills and sheer force of WILL (he has no superpowers; or, rather, as one character thinks at the end, Edilio’s superpower is being Edilio, and that is freaking awesome). Similarly, Astrid begins the book as a cold, elitist “genius” – and I wasn’t a fan of the virgin/whore thing going on with her and Diana early on, but more on that in a bit – but she becomes much more relatable and human as the series progresses. She wasn’t my favorite character, but I respect her. (Lana thinks to herself at one point in the book, she has learned to appreciate Astrid and respect Astrid, but she never actually decides to like Astrid. I echo that sentiment.)
The standout character for me in Light is beyond a doubt Caine. Man, I hated Caine initially and I don’t think I would ever trust that kid (no matter how redeemed he may be by the end of this series). But holy moly, does Caine get a hell of an arc overall and have a wonderful end in Light – finally showing the emotion we always knew he was capable of feeling, despite his sociopathic nature, and redeeming himself but in true Caine fashion (that is, his note at the end is SO manipulative, even when he’s doing a Good Thing). I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s the best twist/development of the novel, in my opinion.
And finally, I feel like I need to make a case for Drake. Penny is SICK and scared the bejesus outta me in the last book, but it is all about Drake. Oh, Drake. Sick, twisted, undead, truly monstrous Drake. Every horror story needs a villain, and while the Gaiaphage is plenty terrifying, it’s a largely abstract thing; an idea dwelling in a mineshaft. Drake, however, is very, very real. With his ability to spontaneously regenerate and his tentacle whip-hand (not to mention his truly messed up sadistic glee in violence and torture), Drake is a tangible, unstoppable boogeyman. I LOVED how unrelentingly terrible he was throughout the series. Heck, I’d go so far as to call Drake the true villain of the GONE series, and the battle with Drake is the last one of the FAYZ. If that’s not a great character, I don’t know what is.
4. How about the treatment of female characters in the series, in particular? What is your impression of the roles of Astrid, Diana, Lana, and Brittany in particular?
Tara: The female characters were excellently written, and are all grade a action girls (with a very, very, very few exceptions). Gender never seemed to be an issue in the books, simply because it didn’t matter. Why care about gender when there’s something lurking in the darkness? The ladies were treated as they should have been. Equally. There was the good, the bad and the sadistic, just like the boys. Their roles were just as important, and they saved the day loads of times.
As I’ve said before, Astrid bugged me for the majority of the series. She was just the smart one – the ice queen, completely in control of everything she said and did. I needed something more. I needed her to question her morals and faith and act as she thought. Her aloofness really didn’t do it for me, and neither did the matronly virgin good-girl thing. In Lies she gets some depth and a sense of reality. She’s no longer too good to be true, but her real change comes in Fear. Diana, on the other hand, played a hand on the “bad” side of characters in the earlier books. She was mysterious, cynical and devious. While she actually didn’t do much (or at least I thought so), she still managed to be a memorable character and a really ambiguous one at that. She manipulated things to her will with really no ulterior motive in sight. Even Caine was wrapped around her pinkie finger, thinking it was him pulling the strings. Overall, I felt these two ladies had their faults in the whole “good”/”evil” thing, but proved to be more valuable later on– without being on sides.
Lana is one of my favorite characters, just as I said earlier. As the Healer, she is also one of the most important people in the FAYZ. You just can’t afford to lose her because of the power she holds. She’s tough, cold and stubborn – she went to the Gaiaphage head on. She was possessed by it, and throughout the series, had it in her head. She could tell when the Gaiaphage was strong or weak, she knew if it was planning something. Lana even saw Gaia on the move to Perdido Beach. It lets them get a step ahead. This connection also let her resist Penny’s illusions, having seen much worse. The Gaiaphage had a plan for her all along. It needed her to teach the coyotes how to kill, and give Drake his new arm. It used her ability to merge Brittney and Drake. This connection, though, isn’t her only significance. A lot of people would be died earlier without her, including Sam, Edilio, Dekka, Brianna, and Diana. She’s an ideal fighter, and an ultimate badass.
Brittney, similar to Lana, was a ploy in the Darkness’ plan to give Drake life again. It was her immortality and devout faith that made her vulnerable to it. Her “brother” told her that she was an angel sent from God, in order to destroy the Devil (Drake). Again, it was merely apart of the Darkness’ plan. At first, Brittney is resistant and begging to be killed while sharing a body with Drake– it’s not till later where she actually refers to the Darkness as her Lord and God, it having convinced her of dominating the world with it. She had a huge role to play in the books, because her immortality was keeping Drake alive.
All of the ladies in the series turned out to be extremely bad-ass, so I’m very pleased. A+.
Thea: I don’t think there’s anything else I can add to that! I agree that the female characters were awesome, nuanced, and completely badass in their own different ways in the GONE series.
When I initially started the series, with Gone and Hunger especially, I was frustrated with the virgin/whore dichotomy that seemed to be presented in the characters of Astrid and Diana. Blonde, blue-eyed, genius-level-intelligent Astrid was the frigid virginal good girl to Diana’s dark-haired, olive-skinned sexy bad girl persona. While the series starts out in this way, it actually evolves over the course of the books. Astrid is not actually so pure and chaste, Diana is not so “bad” – both of them play integral roles to the story within the FAYZ and in the eventual battle agains the Gaiaphage. I really and truly applaud Grant for steering away from this initial stereotype (which makes me cringe) and giving us actual, fully fleshed out real female characters.
I also love Lana, who as Tara says plays a vital role in the series overall, especially in this last book. I’d argue that Lana is actually the most important female character in the series, though she gets a little less screentime compared to Astrid and Diana.
Finally, I just have to say how much I appreciated and loved that female characters in this series are also the fighter characters, too. The Breeze is one of my most beloved characters in the entire series because of her flippant, cocky attitude (and her ability to back up that amazing attitude given her super-speed and utter fearlessness). And then there’s Dekka, who loves Brianna in a way that will never be reciprocated, but who is the best friend and right-hand woman anyone could ever ask for. I loved all of these female characters so very much.
5. How about superpowers, alien evil monsters, and speculative fiction features overall? Believable? Unbelievable?
Tara: I can’t say that superpowers or the extreme aspects of speculative fiction were realistic, but maybe aliens. It’s a big, big universe, after all, with a lot of dimensions and unanswered questions. Not to mention – probably a lot of life. So there could be evil alien monsters. But ignoring actual realism, it’s completely believable in this story. There’s no magic in the series and there’s no unexplainable nonsense– everything has its reasons. The nuclear plant, kids developing powers pre-FAYZ, the meteorite… It all ties together. It’s all a little mad, but the way it’s written is believable and serious, when it could’ve gone down some ridiculously cheesy road. Not to mention, we read speculative fiction books so we can have this sort of stuff! We want to read this sort of stuff. Kids fighting kids is cool, sure. And so are kids fighting aliens. But kids fighting aliens AND other kids with superpowers? Incredible. There are so many things covered in the story– it’s horrifying, wonderful and unique. It’s kept me up all night thinking about it. I’ve had dreams about it. I’ve literally sat down with my friends to discuss a situation like this. It sticks to you in a way, so yeah. I think it was just believable enough to suck me in.
Thea: At first blush, there’s a LOT to swallow when you start the GONE series. I recently had a conversation with a friend, trying to sell her on the book, which went something like this: Well, there are these kids and they are trapped within a psychic bubble dome, and they start to develop superpowers – well, they don’t ALL develop superpowers, but some of them do – and then there are talking animals and mutant killer creatures, and an ancient alien…
Suffice it to say, there’s a lot going on in this series. But somehow, Michael Grant pulls it all off. We finally get some answers as to what the Gaiaphage is, where it came from, how it does the things it does. I’m not entirely convinced that everything ties together perfectly (there’s a revelation about Sam and Caine at the very end that’s a little confusing/tough to swallow), but for the most part, the GONE series juggles all of these extreme and disparate speculative fiction elements with great skill.
Discussion with ALL THE SPOILERS:
(In which we cut loose and discuss the series with ALL the spoilers we want.)
Tara: I’ve compiled a list of things I did while reading Light.
– Put the book away.
– Groan more.
– Start reading it again.
– Cry and groan.
– Repeat process until the end of the book.
– Weep for an unholy amount of time.
This book ripped out my heart, so I’m going to type some incoherent, capslocked, and aggressive sentences. Ehem.
WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME. WHY BRIANNA. WHY JACK. WHY CAINE. THEY DIDN’T DESERVE ANY OF THIS, YOU MONSTER. I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME. AND THAT AUTHOR’S NOTE. HOW DARE YOU. HOW. DARE. YOU.
Okay, I feel better. Now to be a little more serious. The ending killed me a little on the inside, especially when it mentioned Dekka having a photo of Brianna by her bed. Like, oh, yes, let us reopen that freshly made wound, it won’t hurt. But it did. I actually cried over the ending, like the big baby I am. I came downstairs, and Mom freaked out because she thought something “much worse” happened. But I honestly think that finishing a book series I really loved was enough to cry over.I can’t really put everything I hated and loved into words it’s all just… Jumbled. All that’s been needed to say is already out, and everything left in is incoherent. I suppose some appreciation to Michael Grant would be necessary, though. My apologies in advance for the cheesiness. Thanks for writing this spectacular series. Thank you for crushing my heart and hopes, because I wouldn’t have had it done in any other way. Thank you for those nights I couldn’t sleep (Thea, don’t tell Mom). Thank you for giving me the FAYZ and everyone in it (even Drake).
Thea: YES. I went through a similar array of emotions finishing the Light. I mean, this is a 6 book series and I read and reviewed each and every one of them here on The Book Smugglers. I LOVED THESE CHARACTERS. I didn’t want to say goodbye to any of them, not even Drake.
I cried a bit when Brianna died (especially when Dekka started to lose it, and then YES TARA at the end with the picture by Dekka’s bed! GUH.). I cried a bit when Diana realized what Caine was doing when he let Little Pete take over his body. I DEFINITELY cried when Orc died – poor Orc! Who I hated at first, but then grew to like and finally love. AND THEN when Caine’s letters are discovered?!? GUH x 1,000,000.
Honestly, I thought that ALL of the kids would die in the FAYZ, by some stupid action concocted by the people outside the dome, and I certainly didn’t expect a happy ending for Lana, Edilio, Dekka, Emilio, stupid Albert (who I appreciate as a character but who was so frustrating for so many reasons)… certainly NOT for Sam and Astrid and Diana. But I love that they did get a happy ending, and that there’s an acknowledgement by all of the survivors of the FAYZ that things will never, ever be the same for any of them ever again. It’s a bittersweet ending, but one that I think did right by everyone in the FAYZ.
I absolutely loved this series, and I’m so happy I got to share the experience with my kickass sister.
(Tara, your secret is safe with me.)
Tara: 8 – Excellent for Light; 9 – Damn Near Perfection for the series overall
Thea: What Tara said. 8 – Excellent for Light; 9 – Damn Near Perfection for the series overall
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