Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ride the Wave of the Living

When you are in a book slump, you need something exciting to really grab you and force you to plow through with the excitement and enthusiasm you are struggling to find in other books. For me, The Living by Matt de la Pena was just that book. Need a little excitement in your life? Look no further! This will grab you like a tsunami, and won't let go until its ready. 

Shy took the job on the cruise line to make some money this summer. His mother was worried about him, but how much could go wrong on a cruise ship? Besides, with the Romero virus going around, home wasn't so safe either. Having watched his grandmother succumb to the disease, he doesn't think he could watch someone he loves go through that again. Life on the cruise ship isn't so bad. You work a lot catering to the ridiculously wealthy, but most are nice enough. When a strange man throws himself off the side of the boat, Shy is the one who tries to save the man. But after a cryptic "death bed confession", Shy loses the man to the sea. Now, a few weeks later, a strange man is on the new cruise and everyone keeps telling Shy the man is looking for him. Shy can only avoid him for so long. Especially when he has no idea what the man would want from a simple poor kid from California on the Mexican border. 

When word gets around that something catastrophic has happened to the US, Shy can't imagine the state of devastation his home is in. An earthquake like no other ravaged the West Coast and has left most of the states of California, Oregon, and Washington completely devastated. Everyone on the ship is reeling from the news, but they have no idea what is about to come their way. With an earthquake that close to the coast, a tsunami is bound to be close on its heals. Cruise ships are built to withstand incredible storms, but this might just be the monster that pushes it to the limit. There are a lot of people on the boat Shy cares about, but when it comes to life and death, it is amazing the choices a person will have to make. 

Sometimes a book that runs at this break-neck pace is too fast for you. When you are in a book slump like I was, or if you are looking for a book for a student who gets "bored" too quickly, this is a perfect choice. In hindsight, the story had a LOT of different elements that seemed almost too much: the virus, the earthquake, the tsunami, the island, the lost at sea. Any one or two could have made for a great story, but all together it can be a bit overwhelming. Still, I was totally in the mood for this kind of story. I needed a book where every single page was stuffed with intrigue and action. And I got it with The Living! This was truly an action-packed story, and it was exactly the medicine I needed to pull me out of my book slump. 

Shy is a really great main character. He is just a good kid, a normal kid. He loves his family. He mourns the loss of his grandmother and worries about the rest of his family and the virus. It is also great to see more and more diversity in YA lit. There have been a lot of articles lately about the "white washing" of YA lit, so I am always happy when I see diversity effortlessly injected into the genre. We want our YA lit to reflect its readers who are diverse themselves! I really enjoyed Shy's character, the break-neck pace of the story, and everything about it. The one this I didn't enjoy is knowing I am going to have to wait a year to read the next book. It really left us on a cliffhanger and I don't know how long I can wait to see where the story goes! This is an excellent book for a struggling, mature reader who has never finished a book. Have a student who claims they hate reading because its "boring"? Pick up The Living. I promise you they won't be bored! 

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