Last week at this time, I was lounging in a comfy chair on the beach in Destin, Florida (reading, of course) while my husband and kids played in the ocean. There's just something about reading on the beach that's so completely relaxing. I don't know whether it's the slight breeze off the ocean or the sound of the waves hitting the shore, or a combination of the two, but whatever it is, I wish I could bottle the feeling up and bring it home with me. For some reason, pouring sand onto my patio and sitting in it just doesn't seem to duplicate the experience.
The book I was reading was Susan Pfeffer's haunting YA novel The Dead and the Gone, which is the companion book to Life as We Knew It. Both books follow the events in two different teen-agers lives after the moon is knocked out of its orbit by an asteroid, catastrophically altering the earth's climate. The main character in The Dead and the Gone is Alex Morales, a 17-year-old New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent. When both of his parents disappear after the deadly tidal waves spawned by the asteroid crash, Alex is left to care for his two younger sisters as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland.
Once again, Pfeffer has produced a gripping page turner that not only makes the adrenalin pump but also makes the tears flow. On more than one occasion, I found myself thinking about the characters after I had finished the book and wishing I wasn't finished. Pfeffer's characters are so real and the emotions she harnesses are so raw that the reader just can't help but feel connected to them. This is a definite must-read for anyone who wants to write YA fiction or just loves to read YA material.