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Much of the fun of de la Peña’s latest is how unexpectedly he blends genres, making this, in a sense, four books in one: a finely observed social-class drama, an on-the-sea survival adventure, a global-disaster book, and a contagion thriller. So be warned: spoilers ahoy. Shy Espinoza is 11 days into his summer job on a luxury cruise line when “the Big One” hits California, hurling massive tsunamis into the ocean and tearing our contemporary romantic plotline to bits, as Shy and an unexpected companion are forced to survive in churning, shark-infested waters. The tsunami sequence is a straight-up tour de force, a breathless, horrifying dash into the void. The book’s final act—a conspiracy plot upon a mysterious island—is yet another narrative jolt. Can a book withstand this many resets? Mostly, yes, and that’s due to de la Peña’s narrative restraint and commitment to his unusually believable protagonist. Shy’s no superhero, and that’s a relief. What tonal bumps do exist may very well be smoothed out in the 2014 sequel—this story deserves a broader canvas. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus
Entertainment Weekly, November 13, 2013:
"The Living seamlessly incorporates his trademarks (racial identity, class, street slang) into a lightning-paced page-turner...De la Peña has created a rare thing: a plot-driven YA with characters worthy of a John Green novel. A-"
New York Times Book Review, November 10, 2013:
"Action is first and foremost in ‘The Living’…The breathless conclusion, with an escape by helicopter and a cliff-top showdown, sets up a sequel, scheduled to be published next year."
NPR Weekend Edition, November 23, 2013:
"A disaster epic, a survival story, and a coming-of-age novel filled with the life of a young man who's becoming aware of class, prejudice, and romance." - Scott Simon
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2013:
"It’s a harrowing, exhilarating ride right up to the cliffhanger ending. An addictive page-turner and character-driven literary novel with broad appeal for fans of both."
Starred Review, Shelf Awareness, October 23, 2013:
"In Matt de la Peña's compulsively readable thriller...the breakneck plot will draw readers in, but Shy's personal discoveries about how the world is skewed toward those in power, and his decisions to do the right thing, will hold their attention."
The Rumpus, November 6, 2013:
"The Living is action-driven but doesn’t lose the literary form, while still exploring the themes of race and class."
Booklist, September 1, 2013:
"Much of the fun of de la Peña’s latest is how unexpectedly he blends genres, making this, in a sense, four books in one: a finely observed social-class drama, an on-the-sea survival adventure, a global-disaster book, and a contagion thriller."
School Library Journal, October 2013:
"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, and is likely to appear in the upcoming sequel, The Forgotten."
Publishers Weekly, October 7, 2013:
"De la Peña delivers near-constant action, a high body count, and a compelling cast of characters in this socially aware thriller...De la Peña injects his hybrid natural/medical disaster novel with sharp commentary on social injustice, classism, and discrimination, and the effects of the story’s many calamities set the stage for a planned sequel."
"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."
Starred Review, VOYA, December 2013:
“A great read for those looking for adventure and survival stories with some good character growth and introspection for others, this should have a wide and satisfied readership.”
This book has so many layers it's hard to know where to begin. Shy's Mexican-American heritage, natural disasters AND romance! Read morePublished 17 days ago by Heidi
Loved this book. It kept me guessing throughout the entire storyline. I can't wait to read the next book in this series.Published 18 days ago by Pixlee
I love a good disaster story. The Living is a good disaster story. Fast moving with characters that feel real and you care about and want to root for. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Dogs & Horses
The Living was a really solid story about a kid making an honest living taking a chance on the summer job of a lifetime on a luxury cruise ship, only for him to witness a suicide... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Melody Simpson
First 2/3 of this book are awesome, the cruise ship, the disaster, but the last third on the 'secret' island and the cliched plague go off the deep end. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Zork3
Great edge of your seat adventure that is appropriate for 6th graders up!Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Shy, a Mexican-American kid from a small border-town near San Diego, is working on a cruise ship and earning good money. Read morePublished 2 months ago by J. Green