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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*The Living* by Matt de la Pena- young adult book review
Also by Matt de la Pena:

We Were Here

Ball Don't Lie
The Living
by Matt de la Pena
Grades 9-12+ 320 pages Delacorte November 2013 Hardcover    

Why I hadn’t discovered this absolute gem of a book before vexes me. I read voraciously and rarely come across a book that just wows me, blows me away from start to finish, and makes me salivate for the sequel (and thank God there is one!). Matt de la Pena’s The Living was devoured in two nights, and only because I wanted to make this absolutely stunning novel last as long as I could. I don’t have a lot of willpower when it comes to great storytelling!

From the start, we are drawn into the world of young cruise ship employee Shy and the girl he dreams of, Carmen, along with a ship full of great characters—most of them wealthy and rather condescending to Shy and the crew. All are out for a great time on the high seas, until news hits of a massive series of earthquakes that have struck California and the West Coast.

But another disaster turns this into a powerful and gut-wrenching tale of survival as gargantuan tidal waves render the cruise ship destroyed. Shy faces impending death from all angles. Weaved into this disaster story is another storyline involving the emergence of a bizarre new disease that has ravaged Shy’s loved ones and now threatens to ravage the entire West Coast after the quakes have already taken so many lives.

Shy is left to struggle for his own life and the lives of the few people left from the initial tidal waves, all the while wondering if his family is alive back in San Diego. He also has to deal with the growing conspiracy involving the strange new disease his own grandmother died from, and which links Shy directly with powerful and secretive scientists who want him dead. Shy must fight the elements in a battered raft on the empty ocean, including sharks, no food, dwindling water and no land in sight. Without hope, can he even hope to go on?

I cannot do this story justice, because the author, who has written a number of novels in the YA/Adult genre, manages to interweave the suspenseful storylines in a way that never feels jumpy. When the storylines converge on an island that Shy first thinks is salvation/paradise, the reader is about ready to jump out of his/her skin (as I was) from the buildup of tension, intrigue, romance, mystery and breathless survival attempts by a young man who becomes a heroic everyman.

This book holds massive appeal for both males and females, and forget the YA tag. I am way older than that and enjoyed it immensely. There is adventure, action, romance, mystery, and sheer intense thrills on every page, so much so that when you reach the end, you actually fight to catch your breath. Finding out that a sequel is releasing in the fall of 2014 leaves you breathless all over again.

Just heed my warning. You won’t be able to stop reading once you start The Living. It is relentless entertainment with characters who will haunt you long after their ship has sailed.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Marie D. Jones/2014 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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