Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Plot Summary: The dead & the gone begins with the narrator Alex Morales working at his part-time job for a local pizza joint in New York City and returning home to find the power is out. He comforts his two sisters Julie and Briana and the siblings manage to fall asleep despite their parents not being home, as their mother is at work and their father is out of the United States for a funeral. In the morning, their Uncle Jimmy tells them that an asteroid has crashed into the moon, moving it closer to the earth and changing the tides and weather. Alex and Julie help Uncle Jimmy pack the food from his bodega into crates and bags, as he anticipates food shortages and rioting. They receive food in return. Soon, the full extent of the moon sinks in as the subway tunnels flood, food shortages begin, people being to flee the city and sickness sets in. Alex, who only had to worry about good grades and saving up for college, now has to fight to keep his sisters alive in a city that is slowly dying, without knowing whether his parents are alive or not.
Critical Evaluation: This novel is a well-crafted piece of apocalyptic fiction with a sympathetic narrator who is self-sacrificing and extremely strong-willed. The entire novel is pulled along by Alex Morales and his ability to survive as a teen in New York City while taking care of his two sisters. The difficult situations and decisions that he has to make are dealt with in a sympathetic manner and his reactions as the events unfold are akin to that of the readers. For example, when Alex first encounters a dead body, he can barely stand it and skirts around it, feeling horrible for being unable to do anything. By the time he and his friend Kevin are looting bodies to trade for food, he has become desensitized but only because he is trying to provide for his sisters. His decision for Bri to be taken care of is a very adult decision that puts her wellbeing over her or his own happiness. Julie and Briana are also strong characters who may have begun as weak or complaining but as the story continues, they both develop into survivors.
Reader's Annotation: In a world where the moon has been moved closer to the earth, Alex Morales has to do whatever necessary to keep his two sisters alive in an apocalyptic vision of New York City.
Information About the Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer has always wanted to write since she was a child. Now, she is a popular teen author who lives in Middletown, New York with many books under her belt.
Pfeffer also writes helpful articles for struggling writers covering the topics of theme, plot and shaping stories. Follow the author at her blog.
Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction; Survival
Curriculum Ties N/A
- One of Alex's teachers describes him as a teenaged saint. How does Alex fulfill this description despite his desensitization to the death of others?
Reading Level: 15+
- The vast amount of loss of life within this book is expected of an apocalyptic era. Alex is a sympathetic narrator who becomes desensitized to the death that he encounters as he tries to care for his two younger sisters.
Why This Book?: Staff recommendation
Pfeffer, S. B. (2008). The Dead & the Gone. Florida, Harcourt Books.