Gone, by Michael Grant (2008), is Lord of the Flies *(Golding, 1999) for the current generation. In Perdido Beach, California, everyone over the age of fifteen disappears in an instant. Everyone else is left to fend for themselves without adult supervision. But there’s a barrier between Perdido Beach, rechristened The FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) and the outside world. No one can get out and no one can get in. No one knows what caused the disappearances. And everyone looks to Sam Temple to lead them, to figure out what happened and keep them safe. But the kids from Coates Academy, the private school on top of the hill, have other ideas and their own agenda. It doesn’t help that some kids are developing strange powers and are using them to control those without. Take Golding’s story, mix in some of NBC’s hit show Heroes and add a force field and you’ve got Gone by Michael Grant.
Why read Gone, especially since it’s a longer read than most students are willing to sit through? Gone can be a vehicle for discussion of who has power in society, why those people are in power and how they remain in power. In the novel, the kids begin to divide themselves into factions—those who have powers against those who don’t, those who rally behind Sam Temple, who has a power, because he has saved them before, and those who rally behind Caine from Coates Academy. Caine also has a power, but his motives are self-serving. We could discuss how Sam’s leadership differs from Caine’s leadership, and how different students in school are leaders and how they became to be viewed in that role. We can also make a connection to current politics and how the political system works.
If read in conjunction with Lord of the Flies, students could draw parallels between the two texts, comparing the characters of Sam and Ralph, and Caine and Jack in terms of personality, situation, willingness to lead. One discussion topic often linked with Lord of the Flies is the nature of man, or the idea that man is inherently evil. This argument could be discussed in the context of Gone as well. The two leaders of the FAYZ, Sam and Caine both carry secrets that they do not want exposed. How these secrets play into their leadership roles and the choices they make would make an interesting addition to the Lord of the Flies discussion of man’s true nature.
In his profile on Goodreads, Michael Grant said that his goal in writing Gone was to “creep [people] out. To make [them] stay up all night reading, then roll into school tired the next day so that you totally blow the big test and end up dropping out of school” (n.d.). I want students to have the satisfaction of completing something bigger than they thought they could. I want them to be able to say, “Yes, Michael Grant was right, I didn’t want to stop reading,” or “No, Michael Grant was wrong, and this book didn’t remotely interest me,” and be able to use the text to support their reasoning on either side.
A teaching activity with Gone would be to write a scene from the next novel. Gone 2 is subtitled Hunger. In an interview with Static Multimedia (Johnson, 2008), Grant said that the residents of the FAYZ would be dealing with many forms of hunger, some obvious, and some not so obvious. Students could brainstorm types of hunger, then choose one type as a starting point for their own scene.