The Living by Matt de la Pena Book Review

The Living by Matt de la Pena
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release: November 12, 2013

Shy took a summer job on a luxury cruise liner to earn some extra money to help his mom and sister out. It will be hard work, but Shy doesn't mind so much, after all there will be free food and maybe even a few hot girls. Then the Big One hits. An earthquake that takes out most of the west cost of the States and creates a tsunami that the cruise ship cannot hope to survive. Shy's life goes from worrying about getting the girl, to surviving when there is no hope of rescue.

That sounds like a rather promising premise, right? There is even this odd mystery where, in the first chapter, Shy is unable to stop a passenger from committing suicide, one that is somehow linked to him in more ways than he can understand.  With such an opening, I was surprised and bored to find that nothing much happened for sixteen more chapters. Sixteen chapters where Shy swoons over a girl who happens to be engaged, worries about someone following him, pines after said girl, meets some snotty teenagers, swoons some more, and we are introduced to a few of his friends.  There is some setup and world building, but nothing that I couldn't have gotten through a few flashbacks or just two or three chapters. Obviously, I am a little biased toward romance being in my action books though, so take that for what it is worth.

By the time the tsunami arrived, I was just dying for some kind of action. The book delivered in this aspect. A lot of people die. There are more tsunamis and sharks and very little in the way of provisions. I liked this full on survival mode part of the book and what's more, I liked Shy at this point too.

Then there is this third part that I don't want to spoil, but I will say this: I absolutely hate it when a character knows something and instead of bringing these people who are clearly on your side into the circle of trust, you just leave them hanging. There is a character in this book, who although I think is supposed to be good, is directly responsible for over 70 people losing their lives. The reason he is responsible is because he knew they were going to be killed and did not think it was necessary to tell a single person that their lives were in danger. Not a single one. This is either a setup for a really twisted and untrustworthy character or lazy writing. Considering I just started a book in which this happens, I am leaning towards lazy writing. Writers--please please please--if you have a character who has some solid information like say, someone is trying to kill you, let the other characters know. Let the other characters try to survive in a way that is believable for their character, but don't keep it a secret as a plot device because it is absolutely ridiculous. I will be checking my book shortly to make sure that I never do this.

Although there is an intriguing mystery although one that was pretty obvious, I found the romance cloying, the pacing to be all over the place, and characters who were sometimes good and sometimes overly secretive to the point of frustration. I probably won't be rushing to read the next one.