Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Shade of the Moon (The Last Survivors #4) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Before I begin, I have to say thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Edelweiss for allowing me to read an e-galley of this book.  I had been looking forward to this book since I heard there was going to be another book in what I had called the Life As We Knew It series.  I remember reading the first book when it won the very first year of the Truman Book Award in Missouri, and really loving it!  So much that I read it with my students for a few years.  Until The Lightning Thief was a nominee, and then that book became my read along, until The Hunger Games, and so on.  And then the 2nd book in the series, The Dead and the Gone, came out, and I loved that, and even sometimes, if we had time, read that with my students as well.  It was such a great look at the story from a different point of view, as well as a different environment. When the 3rd one came out later, This World We Live In, it too had a very interesting story and pulled the different characters from the two books together.  Actually, as I've only read the 3rd one once, there were some things I didn't quite remember as I read this 4th one.  So I will probably have to go back and read through it again now.  I had some trouble reading this book, and I'll explain why after I finish telling you about the story.
So basically it's about two years or so since the last book, and four years since the meteor struck the moon, knocking it closer to the Earth, and messing life up for everyone.  Jon is living with his step-mom Lisa and younger brother Gabe, in an Enclave city, using the passes that were supposed to be for Alex, Julie, and his older brother.  But Carlos was still working as a guard, and Alex left, giving the passes to Lisa and Jon's father.  Then Julie died at  the end of the last book, (something I kind of, but didn't really remember, so need to go back and re-read).  So when Jon's dad also died, the passes were given to Lisa, Gabe, and the rest of the family chose Jon, as they always had, because he was the youngest and they figured he had the best chance to go on and do something.  Jon had always kind of been taken care of, given the most food when they were living alone as a family in their house, not made to do as much work.  And now, he still has it better than the rest of his family.  He gets to live in an Enclave.  Everyone else, his mom Laura, his sister Miranda and her husband Alex, they live in what people call a "grub" town.  It's where the "worker" people live.  Alex drives a bus for the "Clavers", as the people where Jon live are called.  Miranda works in the greenhouses, and is pregnant now.  His mom teaches at the high school for the grub kids.  In the Enclave, Lisa works finding places for the domestics, grubs who clean and cook and take care of the children in the Enclave.  They live with their families until the weekend when they get to go home for a night or two.  The kids here will go to school, then to a college type of school where they will learn the things needed to help keep the society going.  But they are treated as if they are special, and better than the grubs.  They even treat the grubs really bad.  Jon doesn't think much of it at first, it is just the way it is.  Even though the rest of his family lives in a filthy apartment, with roaches, and barely enough food to eat.  And he lives with someone that cooks and cleans for him.  A new girl moves to town, Sarah, and he is instantly interested in her.  But is told by his friends he can't be friends with her, because her father is the reason one of them's grandfather lost their job.  So he sneaks around in secret to be with her.  From Sarah, Jon learns to begin to question more the whole Claver vs. Grub issues.  Things hit a head when at a soccer game that Jon is playing in the grub town where his family lives, a student dies on the field.  And then a riot breaks out, and soon the guards are killing grubs that get in the way.  Things get really bad, to where his family soon begins fearing for their lives, and it is a justified fear.  They decide to get out of town.  To a town that Jon's older brother Matt knows of where it is different, where everyone is treated equally, and works together to help the town and people.  But along the way there are many obstacles, and trying to overcome them, Jon finally comes to terms with what kind of a person he wants to be.
Now, writing a review of this is hard.  The first half of the book being told by Jon, well, it is really hard to like him.  While from what I remember of him mostly from the first book, he was just the annoying younger brother, and so while he might have been irritating, I didn't like or dislike him.  But in this book, you can see just how spoiled he has been, and how he really needs something to bring him back to reality.  And I even posted on Goodreads at the halfway point that something needed to happen in the 2nd half to make me like both Jon, and really kind of the book.  The romance between Jon and Sarah was a bit rushed I think.  I know that in times like they're living, maybe romance does move quicker, but we weren't really given what we needed in the writing to maybe see it.  This book, unlike the others in the series that were more apocalyptic type stories, is similar to a dystopian story.  You've got your new society with the rules to help get life back to normal, but there are good and bad things about it.  And if you are in the good part, the clavers, then you like it, and you feel that the grubs wouldn't have anything if it wasn't for the clavers, so you think this is just the best way.  So maybe that is why I struggled with it as well.  I was so used to the more survival type of story from the first books.  And also part of my issue may have been from how long it has been since I read the 3rd one.  The end of the story really ties it up well, and gets more back to what I expected from these stories.  So, I'm glad that I didn't give up halfway through, because the ending really saved it for me.  You'll need to read it yourself and decide what you think, but I think that if you've read the rest of the series, you can either just stop, and not go on, or you can also read this, and get further with the characters.  I feel it could also be open to another book.  I don't know if it is something that would happen. But it is definitely left open in my opinion.  Oh yeah, one final thing.  I wondered why Jon was playing soccer instead of baseball like he had in the first book.  It's not really explained, it's just that all the teams play soccer.  Jon still talks about liking baseball, so that isn't completely gone.  And probably soccer makes a more dramatic sport to play than baseball, so that is why it was chosen for the story.

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