Gone, the first novel in a planned six book series by Michael Grant, starts off with a bang. Or, to be more accurate, without a bang, a flash of light, or an explosion. But, wow, is it an exciting start to a series.
Sam Temple is in history class when his teacher suddenly disappears. As in, was there one moment, and the next he was gone. Sam and his classmates soon realize that EVERYONE over the age of 14 disappeared from the town of Perdido Beach, California.
While the other kids in town quickly look to Sam for leadership, Sam just wants to find a way to escape and find out what really happened, worried about his recently discovered ability to create light from his hands. Into this leadership void step the Perdido Beach School bullies and, eventually, a small group of students from Coates Academy, a boarding school for wealthy troublemakers, who have an agenda of their own. Led by the charismatic Caine Soren, they quickly move to consolidate power, enforcing order and creating new rules. Caine immediately realizes Sam is their biggest obstacle, both because of how the Perdido Beach kids look to him and because the strength of Sam’s superpowers may rival Caine’s own. And if the Coates kids need to eliminate Sam to retain power, well, they don't see anything wrong with trying to do just that.
Even at 558 pages, Gone is a very fast read. Despite its length, though, there isn’t much character development, something that didn't actually bother me since it’s plenty entertaining on plot alone and this is the first book in a series, setting things up for future books. Grant manages to sustain the fast pace by combining multiple sources of suspense—why did the adults disappear? What do the hours and minutes running down before each chapter mean? Will they have enough resources to survive? What caused all the superpowers and mutations? Will there be a Coates Academy vs. Perdido Beach showdown? and more—in such a way that enhances the momentum of the story instead of bogging it down. He doesn't let up on the tension, and the fast pace of the story will have many readers racing through the pages, eager to find out what will happen next.
Once you've read Gone, you'll want to pick up the second book in the series, Hunger, which was published this past May. You will, however, have to wait until May 2010 for book three, Lies.