The Gone series by Michael Grant was a very gripping, fun, and entertaining read, and despite it not being for the faint of heart, I would recommend it to just about anyone—which is why I find it so odd that the protagonists are not the characters that make it so riveting, but rather the villainous antihero, Diana Ladris.
First off, the premise of the first book in the series, titled Gone: Sam Temple’s world is altered forever when everyone over the age of fifteen in his town, Perdido Beach, disappears. Soon, though, things start getting very weird: some animals in Perdido Beach are adapting unexpectedly: snakes have wings, coyotes are intelligent, etc., and some, although not most, of the kids inside Perdido Beach are changing, too, getting powers only seen in comic books. The protagonists (the good guys) are Sam Temple, his crush, Astrid Ellison, Sam's best friend Quinn, and a boy named Edilio, who Sam quickly makes friends with in this strange, strange world. And as the book progresses, the bad guys, or at least the guys that make a few of the good guys suspicious, come to light: Caine Soren and his schoolmate, Diana Ladris.
Throughout the series, the good guys are portrayed very clearly as good people, nearly flawless, while the bad guys are horrible people, with few redeeming qualities. One of the greatest changes that the children of Perdido Beach face are the rising tensions between those who have powers, called the "freaks," and those who do not, called the "normals," and because of this conflict, it seems to carry a certain similarity to the X-Men, especially since the good guys, like Professor X, believe in peace between freaks and normals, while the bad guys, like Magneto, believe that freaks are superior. And so the Gone series can be explained as like the X-Men, but with a more clear line between good and evil, right and wrong. While you can be sympathetic towards Magneto, it is nearly impossible to be sympathetic towards Caine, and while some of Professor X’s actions, and many of Wolverine’s, can be questionable, the way in which the Gone series is written makes it very clear that Sam and Astrid are unquestionably moral and good.
A unique exception to this rule is Diana Ladris, who works with Caine as a "bad guy." But as the series develops, it becomes clear that she struggles with the moral implications of some of her more questionable actions, and that although she acts evil, she would very much like to be good, if only she could be. She feels guilty for her actions, and makes sure Caine doesn’t go too far out of line with his agenda. This makes her an incredibly interesting character, and, at least for me, is one of the best things about reading Gone, as she mixes evil actions with good intentions, or instead a very ‘do what needs to be done’ mindset.
Diana Ladris is Gone’s strongest link and one of the most enjoyable characters, full of sarcasm, wit, and an incredibly ambiguous moral compass. Fans of the X-Men, Stephen King, and/or the book Lord Of The Flies will love the Gone series, but most of all, they will love Diana.
Gone by Michael Grant. Katherine Tegen Books, 2014. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!