Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 5, 2016
This book is so badly written I couldn't get past the first few chapters. I used Whispersync, so I read as I listened. Right off the bat, within the first few pages, the author wrote, "No people. No cars on the street. Well, none that was moving, anyway". That's right, "none that was moving". Even the narrator read it that way. For those of you who find nothing wrong with the preceding sentence, it should read, "Well, none that were moving, anyway". Then, just a few pages later, "Stanley Train, Ben’s favorite toy, which he carried with him everywhere, including to bed. It was there, just setting on the floor." At least this time the narrator had the good sense to change "setting" to "sitting".
But it's not just the terrible grammar that bothered me. There's a scene where a teenager is trying to make sense of what's going on, talking with a group of people gathered on the street. He says, “I’ve no idea. I woke up, my mom and dad were AWOL. So were both my brothers. I figured they were ... messing with me, but I can’t figure out the angle, plus there’d be no way they’d get the whole neighborhood to play the reindeer games.” Do kids talk like that? "I can't figure out the angle" sounds like something out of the 40s or 50s. And what's with "play the reindeer games"?
Maybe it's just me, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what the last sentence in the following passage means. "Maybe there was an outage in the neighborhood? A sudden chill iced her insides. It wasn’t logical, but it came from the place that keeps its eyes peeled for the stuff logical doesn’t". It actually hurts my brain to read that. Even the narrator sounded lost when he read it.
In a later chapter, another teenager is described as feeling, "a few planets past the moon", when he discovers his entire block is empty. I can only guess what, "a few planets past the moon" means because I sure as hell have never heard that saying before. He then proceeds to go door to door discovering that no one is home. With each person gone, he has a few choice words to express his satisfaction. For the bully he thinks, "Good riddance". For the girl who shunned him, a simple "Bye bye, Josie". For the man who refused to pay him for a job, the thought was, "Sayonara, (swear word)". For his mother, who failed to protect him from a violent stepfather, the authors write, "he was glad she was gone. 'Smell ya later, Mommy'." What strikes me as preposterous about this scene is, this boy had just awoken to find nobody home on his block. Why the heck would he automatically jump to the conclusion that everybody was permanently gone? It makes absolutely no sense at all. This boy then proceeds to enter the house of the girl who shunned him, go through her dirty laundry and perform an obscene act. Really...I'm not making this up.
Then there's a chapter about a man who somehow manages to survive a plane falling out the the sky and crashing into a tree-filled landscape. The authors write, "From what he could see of the cabin, nobody survived other than himself". Every airline crash I've seen pictures of when a plane has fallen from the sky, there's literally nothing left of it, and certainly no survivors. In fact, he witnesses another crash just moments after regaining consciousness, "...another airplane shot by maybe 10 stories from the forest floor, on a sharp dive, soaring past the tree line before disappearing into a deafening explosion just out of sight". I wonder if there were any survivors on that plane, after a "deafening explosion"! Well, he survived and is able to walk away from the wreckage. He also has some unknown way of telling what time it is by the position of the moon..."Judging from the moon’s position, he figured it was around 3 a.m." It's basic astronomy that you can rarely tell the time by the position of the moon in the night sky. After that insult to my intelligence, I couldn't read any more.
This book, and its sequels are apparently hugely successful. They get rave reviews. What does it mean, that such abysmal writing can be so successful? I think it speaks directly to our current culture of kids not learning the basics of proper English and grammar in school. The art of proper writing is disappearing, if not already altogether gone. Texts and emails are filled with misspelled words, all lowercase or all uppercase, and absolutely no punctuation. These are the skills of our future, and apparently, our current writers.
Compare the writing of "Yesterday's Gone", and many of the other current crop of young adult science fiction and horror novels, to the writing of any of the classic sci-fi or horror novels of the 20th century, and it's like comparing a high school essay to Shakespeare. I'm afraid there's nothing that leads me to believe that things will get better any time soon.