The Living – Matt de la Pena



Shy is a Mexican-American teenage boy working on a 5-star cruise ship for the summer.  He has a great group of coworkers who are friends with the appropriate amount of teenage teasing, but nothing too mean – which a lot of YA books don’t balance as well.  One night early into his voyage, a man confesses strange things to Shy and climbs overboard the highest deck, ultimately letting go and committing suicide.

If this weren’t enough to weigh on a young adult’s mind, soon someone appears asking questions about Shy and what this man discussed on the deck with him before jumping.  Right as the story takes a turn focused on a Pharmaceutical company conspiracy focused around a deadly illness, the cruise line is informed of a massive earthquake that hit California.  The weather begins to worsen and soon a tsunami hits the ship.  Action ensues with our favorite ship employees and a few passengers – the good and the bad – and soon the ship is sinking.  There is a lot of action from the first wave through Shy’s 8 days at sea: people are found, people die, sharks attack, water runs out, and hope is lost.  Besides the great action of this book, and there is plenty, there is a more mature subplot on class, opportunities given (or abused) based on class, and even when characters realize the injustices of the world – not including the bad luck of being aboard a sinking ship – there are moments of kindness, understanding, empathy, and simply learning that stereotypes are not always truthful.

Obviously Shy doesn’t die on the lifeboat – or there would be no book, and certainly not a sequel – but I can’t really continue without giving away the plot.  So know that if you can handle some very detailed chapters about a ship sinking, shark attacks, and life trying to survive on a lifeboat you will be able to make it through the scariest parts of this story to the much deeper conspiracy.  There are some great side characters and action.

A book most boys will like, mostly action and less romance since it’s a male narrator, but be warned – there is a good amount of cussing. Still, the plot (and one certain character) have sparked enough of an interest, and I feel devoted to Shy after surviving with him, that I will continue with the story.

“. . . adventure survival enthusiasts will relish the vivid and raw descriptions of the sinking ship, blistering sun, and shark-infested waters. But most appealing is the empathetic teen, portrayed as a tough guy with a romantic side, who will appeal to both males and females . . . ” — School Library Journal

“Peña takes the time to establish some solid rapport among his characters before unleashing the mayhem, though, and the central disease and drug scam is so viciously immoral that readers will probably book passage on the upcoming sequel, to learn whether Shy and his two smokin’-hot love interests will bring the bad guys to their knees.” — The Bulletin

Sequel – The Hunted (already out)


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