Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Living by Matt de la Pena

First of all, thanks to Delacorte Press and Edelweiss for allowing me to read an e-galley of this.  I've read one book by this author before, We Were Here, when I was reading to help select one of my state library association's book award nominees for the year.  And it was a good book.  But basically a realistic fiction story, and it seems the other books by this author that I've seen on library shelves are also realistic fiction.  So, I guess that might give this one a way a bit.  It seems to be more of a thriller than a drama type piece.  Not that there isn't drama, relationship, Mexican boy problems, family problems are all ones that you see.  I'm normally not the biggest reader of realistic fiction, not that I don't always seem to enjoy the ones that I read, I just don't seek them out to read.  So I was very pleased to get not only this author's great writing, but also a story that was more like what I normally enjoy.
The main character is Shy.  And to help raise money for his goal of going to college, he's taken a job for the summer aboard a cruise ship.  The first cruise started out pretty well until one of the passengers commits suicide by jumping off the boat right in front of Shy.  So now he is still having trouble sleeping because he keeps seeing the moment reply over whenever he closes his eyes.  Fortunately he has found a confidante in one of the other staff members, and her name is Carmen.  Carmen is great because she comes from a background very similar to Shy's.  Unfortunately, Carmen is already engaged to a law student back home.  So while Shy finds himself very attracted to Carmen, he must struggle to keep their relationship as friends only.  But Carmen has said she is there for him any time he needs someone to talk to.  Which Shy will even take her up on late at night.  On this 2nd cruise things seem to be okay.  Until Shy is alerted to the fact that there is someone in a black suit going around asking questions about him.  Shy has only told people the basics, not any of the odd conversation he had with the man before he jumped.  So now he feels like he's being watched, plus at one point he goes back to his cabin to find it's been ransacked.  Nothing is missing, just everything has been pulled out as if it has been searched for something. 
One thing in their background that both Shy and Carmen have in common is that they've lost someone to this new disease called Romero's disease.  Shy's grandmother, and Carmen's father.  While all this stuff is going on, Shy also gets an email from his mother telling him it is urgent for him to try to Skype with her the next day.  When he is finally able to do that, it is as he dreaded, bad news.  Now his nephew has been diagnosed with Romero's disease.  His mother does say there is possibly a vaccination that if they caught it in time can help.  Shortly after this talk, Shy has another strange interaction with some passengers.  An older gentleman starts talking to him at the pool and invites him to dinner with his daughter and her friend.  These two girls are kind of snooty, and so of course Shy doesn't want to go, especially since the crew is not allowed to do this anyway. 
At dinner, an announcement comes over the ship's speakers saying that a storm is headed their way and they will have to ask all passengers to stay inside and off the decks.  Shy goes out to clear the deck and pull the tables and chairs and even the stand he uses to pass things out and put them into a safe area to make sure they don't go off the side of the boat.  Shy knows this means a serious storm, as he's never had to do this, and he can see the fear in his co-worker/boss's eyes.  On the deck he sees the snooty girls from before, one of them is crying. 
Then he goes back in to the dining hall.  And there is another announcement, this one saying that a huge earthquake has hit the west coast of the United States, and there is massive damage from Washington state all the way down to Mexico.  When images of the destruction are shown on the dining room screens, areas that are where Carmen and Shy are from are shown in complete disarray.  About this time passengers are told to go back to their rooms, not to stay in larger areas like the dining room because a tsunami is headed their way.  Life jackets are passed out to everyone.  But as they begin panicking, it soon becomes too late for them to get to safety because the  ship is hit.  Shy watches the wave come through one of the windows.  At this point the story takes the turn for suspense.  There are not enough life boats as the wave hits and knocks many off.  Many people won't even make the life boats as the first strike of the first wave has killed many.  And even once they get into life boats, there are sharks, and the waves aren't done coming.  And who will be able to help with all the destruction back in the United States where the help would come from.  The ship is supposed to be near something called the Hidden Islands.  So if they can only make it that far, what could they find?  Help?
I'll stop there, and let you read the story yourself.  There are many other little side stories and characters I've not talked about, so much for you to read and discover yourself.  I will say it is going to have a sequel, thank goodness, because it ends on a major cliffhanger.