Sympathetic characters anchor over-the-top disaster drama.
What parents need to know
Positive role models
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Living, by Matt de la Pena (Mexican Whiteboy), is the first installment of a violent, thrilling disaster tale. There's plenty of gruesome violence, a very high body count, and teen characters swear casually and constantly (including "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "f--k" ). The story emphasizes themes of racism and class conflict, and the wealthy characters generally behave with selfish entitlement. Given the bloody details and the pervasive strong language, we recommend this for ages 15 and up, a slightly older audience than the publisher suggests.
What's the story?
Shy Espinoza's excited to be working aboard a luxury cruise ship. He's found good friends, including a gorgeous girl he'd love to know better. And he's making enough cash to help his family, still reeling from the death of his grandmother from a mysterious new disease. One night, Shy fails to save a man who leaps overboard. Soon he's menaced by a strange man inquiring about the suicide. But that worry is swept away with news that earthquakes have destroyed the West Coast -- and then multiple tsunamis sink the cruise ship. Shy's adrift at sea, stuck with a rude rich girl who treated him with nothing but disdain back on the ship. They're rescued just as they've lost all hope -- but as Shy soon learns, they're still in great peril.
Is it any good?
If it weren't for the appeal of the central characters, THE LIVING might drown in plot clichés. It's a mash-up of Titanic, The Poseidon Adventure, and Lost with earthquakes, tsunamis, a pandemic, evil scientists, bloodthirsty sharks -- even a monologuing villain who blows his chance to do away with his victim. The result is an exciting page-turner with plenty of intrigue and romance to delight fans of disaster books. Shy's a typical kid from the border, good-hearted and devoted to family and friends. Carmen's a smart and fun sidekick.
Author Matt de la Pena has written poignantly on issues of race and class. Those themes now take a back seat to the action here, and when they're pushed to the front it's forced and cartoonish. The ongoing, unquestioned sexual attention given to women may be authentic to the mind of a teen boy, but it may leave a bitter aftertaste for some readers.
Families can talk about...
- Families can talk about the race, class, and gender themes. How do the racial and class differences among passengers resonate with you?
Why do we enjoy stories with such widespread destruction?
How does the disaster bring out the true nature of the characters, for better or worse?
|Author:||Matt de la Pena|
|Publication date:||November 12, 2013|
|Number of pages:||320|
|Publisher's recommended age(s):||14 - 17|
|Read alone:||15 - 17|
|Available on:||Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle|
|Award:||ALA Best and Notable Books|
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
About Our Rating System
The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.