PJV Quickie: Susan Beth Pfeffer’s much anticipated fourth installment in her “The Last Survivors” series, was highly anticipated by this reader, but unfortunately wasn’t all that I had expected. We ended the third book with hope and the fourth book just crushed that right out of me. I think this fourth book was probably a mistake for the series, I was excited to hear the Pfeffer was writing another Survivors novel, but upon reading it, I was disappointed. The first three books were so good and this one just blew that all to smithereens.
REVIEW: THE SHADE OF THE MOON is from Jon’s point of view, Jon is Miranda’s younger brother and was always shown as a bit selfish in the other three books. While mom and sister are starving to death, Jon is complaining about his food portions. His mom continually sacrificed for him, including right up to the end, but the child never seemed to realize what those sacrifices meant and showed very little gratitude. I’m explaining this to you, because it is what my frame-of-mind was, when I went into this book. Now you have Jon a few years later, in high school and living it up in what is call The Clavers area of his new town.
The Clavers are basically the privileged few, they have their town sectioned off with purification in all the apartments and houses and each Claver has domestics that serve them. Jon and Lisa were allowed entry into the Enclave, with the baby Gabe, because of the passes that Alex had picked up in New York city in the second novel. Miranda, Laura and Alex all sacrifice so new mom Lisa, young tween Jon and baby Gabe can live a better life. They now live as Clavers, classified as “slips” because they slipped through with their passes, instead of going through the initial triage of the town’s foundation, when all non-essentials were booted out and only people that could better the community were allowed in.
Outside of the Enclave exists the Grub towns, where the people that do the hard-labor and domestic work live. Miranda, Alex and Laura are all relegated to living in Grub town, Miranda is a domestic, Alex a bus driver and Laura a teacher. They have just the basics to live off of, while Jon is allowed to go to high school, play soccer and be a regular kid. At the start of this novel he is no better then he was in any of the other novels. He has an inflated sense of self, hanging around ridiculous other boys who are nasty characters. In the beginning they burn down the Grub school just to “show those Grubs.”
Jon shows very little back-bone throughout the novel, even his little act of rebellion, a romance with the daughter of Grub Town doctor, Sarah is hidden. They meet in secret because if his friends find out they are dating, it might destroy his tenuous hold on their society. His friends believe Sarah’s father pushed out a prominent Enclave doctor for the position and that they are grub sympathizers. Even the relationship between the two characters is an insta-love. They just begin secretly dating and sneaking around. They fight about their hidden status before Pfeffer even established a “love” with the reader. It was very poorly constructed and conveyed no titillation on my end.
Finally, the world that is constructed, just seems like Pfeffer was reaching for a dystopian setting, when her novel should clearly still be in its apocalypse infancy. There has only been a few years since the asteroid hit and here we have this highly developed dystopian landscape of oppression, slave-labor and privileged few. I found it quite unbelievable that a society could bloom like this so quickly, that people that were in a normal American, democratic society could suddenly treat a group of people so poorly and have the mass majority okay with it. We are not talking a band of mercenaries or group of tyrants that have banded together, this is a whole city of women, children and men, families that as a whole have suddenly come to view people living outside of their society as beneath them in a few short years, no empathy or concern. Characters like Sarah, who are trying to help these “grubs” are treated poorly just because of their socially conscious view-point.
This works in an apocalypse novel when it’s a band of religious zealots that have banded together, or escaped convicts, but this is set in a “repaired” society setting, which just didn’t work.
I hate to bash on this novel so much, especially having been such a BIG fan of the other books. I believe LIFE AS WE KNEW IT is one of the best apocalypse novels out there and everyone should read it. But, this one, just put a damper in the series for me. You pair this bad dystopian setting with a very unlikeable character and it just left me feeling uncaring of where this novel was heading, the only thing that kept me reading was the small glimpses I got of Miranda and Alex, which were too few and far between. Especially with Jon’s point of view to mess up things.
I know the point of this book was to redeem this boy in the end and be all huggy-kissy “oh finally he’s seen the light.” But, his persona throughout all four books was so devolved that any progression seemed forced. I think Pfeffer was torn in trying to deliver a stand-alone novel with a recurring character from the series. Maybe if I hadn’t read the first three I might have liked Jon more, but as a fan of the series I feel cheated. His progression throughout this novel was not worth it.
Overall it saddens me to say that THE SHADE OF THE MOON was a disappointment and three years of anticipation of this novel feels like a joke. The only redeeming quality of this novel was the continuation of the story and Pfeffer’s lovely writing style. If I didn’t have such an investment with the series this would probably be a DNF.
Recommendations: Fans of apocalypse young adult novels and fans of the series. There is talk of sexual interaction, rape – so I would recommend a mature teen reader.