Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Ember (first published January 1st 2013)
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
With a natural disaster setting off Shy's story, intermixed with hints of the struggle for human survival and a government conspiracy, this is one book that will absolutely have fans clamoring for the sequel.
But then, an earthquake more massive than any ever recorded hits California and Shy's life is changed forever.
The earthquake is only the beginning. Twenty-four hours and a catastrophic chain of events later, Shy is lost at sea, fighting to survive--and stuck with her.
She's blond and she's rich, and never in her life would she have dreamed she'd be adrift in the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by death and completely dependent on a guy like Shy.
And Shy hasn't even faced the worst yet.
Matt de la Peña introduces us to Shy, a young man who has opted to work on a Hawaiian cruise for the summer. While his days have been relatively simple; full of tips and a girl named Carmen, Shy's life grows exponentially complicated in the aftermath of a passenger's mysterious death. And once the Big One hits and the ship capsizes, Shy's life is transformed forever...
What's notable about The Living, is the fact that Matt de la Peña has essentially set up a story that unfolds in segments, and continues to evolve in genre. It not only makes the story stand out, but it also helps both the reader really get into the head of Shy, and keep the pace of the story, as the story continues to unfold itself.
When we first meet Shy, his life is essentially a contemporary mystery, as he tries to figure out just why a passenger has chosen to committ suicide, and why Shy ultimately couldn't find the words or the actions to stop him. As Shy wallows in his own guilt and grows increasingly alarmed that someone else on the ship is watching him, De la Peña uses Shy's self-analysis to set up a growing series of questions, which only grow in number and scope in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Once Shy and rich girl Addie end up stuck on the lifeboat together, De La Peña takes the opportunity to transition the book seamlessly into a survival tale.
As the two of them try to figure out just how they're going to survive the Pacific Ocean as they're at odds with each other, De la Peña smartly asks readers to question the socioeconomic misconceptions that Shy and Addie have attributed to each other, and what it will take to get past them. It's a nice nod to real-world societal challenges, and De la Peña wisely shows how their respective survival instincts end up bonding Shy and Addie together, in a shared hope for humanity.
Though their bond doesn't solve everything, it does help them save each other once Shy and Addie make it to the island where other survivors have been taken. As the story evolves into a medical thriller, Shy and Addie's time on the boat together, allows them to work collaboratively and intelligently in the best of a hostile situation, even if the end result isn't pefect.
On that note, the one issue that readers may potentially have when reading The Living, is with the final third of the book. Matt adds an intriguing, conspiracy-ladden layer to the story, and it's one that may make some readers think "Ok. That seems a little convenient." I know I definitely had a similar thought when reading, though I was also immediately curious to see how all of this would turn out.
But all in all, it's only a minor consideration in an overall fantastic tale. Matt clearly gets better and better with each book, and The Living will absolutely have readers begging for the sequel.
(Fortunately: it comes out soon!)
The Living was a intricate, terrifying thrill ride showing the basest instincts of humanity, as they struggle to survive against insurmountable and unpredictable odds. But even in the midst of total chaos, Matt de la Peña also tells a compelling story on how people can continue to astonish with both the best and worst parts of humanity, as they fight for their very lives.
I predict that readers will absolutely love The Living like I did, and make a mad dash to pick up The Hunted, as well. I highly recommend this book for fans of all readers, especially for readers who are fans of James Dashner, and/or emjoy survival tales.
About the author:
The Living is Matt de la Peña’s fifth novel, for which he received the Pura Belpré Author Honor Award. He attended the University of the Pacific on a basketball scholarship and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at San Diego State University.
He lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches creative writing. Look for Matt’s other books, Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, I Will Save You, and The Hunted, all available from Delacorte Press. Visit him at MattDeLaPena.com and follow @mattdelapena on Twitter.