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The Living Hardcover – November 12, 2013

78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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

Review

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."

The Bulletin:
"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.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (November 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385741200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385741200
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matt de la Peña's debut novel, Ball Don't Lie, was an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick and was made into a major motion picture. His second novel, Mexican WhiteBoy, was an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adult (Top Ten Pick), a Notable Book for a Global Society, a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book. His third novel, We Were Here, was an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Readers, an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and a Junior Library Guild Selection. His fourth book, I Will Save You, was an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Readers, an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick, a Junior Library Guild Selection and finalist for the 2011 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. De la Peña's fifth book, The Living, was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults and a Pura Belpré Author Honor Book.

His short fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times, NPR.org and various literary journals, including Pacific Review, The Vincent Brothers Review, Chiricú, Two Girls' Review, The George Mason Review, and The Allegheny Review. De la Peña received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches creative writing. You can visit Matt and find out more about his books at mattdelapena.com and follow him on Twitter at @mattdelapena.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By LTCL on November 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Wow! This is so much more than just your average poor boy gets stranded in the ocean with a little rich girl after a tsunami takes out the cruise ship book! Shy is just a kid trying to make some much needed summer money by working on a cruise ship. He is trying to help his mom make ends meet and there is a strange disease that is affecting his whole family in San Diego. He has made friends on the ship and there is one girl in particular that he would like to know a lot better. Things look good until the night he tried to stop a man from committing suicide. Things get a lot worse in short order. We find Shy and one other survivor stranded on a lifeboat fighting sharks, hunger and the brutal sun. Will they make it to safety? Did others make it or are they alone? What is happening with this strange epidemic that is wiping out much of the population in the West? Fast-paced storyline with cliff hangers to keep us going until the next installment, "The Living" is sure to please adventure seeking readers.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By OutlawPoet TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Have you ever read one of those books that leave you scratching your head? The Living by Matt De La Pena did just that to me.

I selected this book after reading a blurb about it in a magazine. The blurb said a few things that immediately caught my interest: dystopia, pandemic, California Earthquake. It indicated that this was a new and exciting voice in dystopic fiction.

I bought it, and there are a few things you need to know:

First of all, this isn't dystopic…yet. There is a pandemic in the background. It doesn't become important to the story until the very end of the book. This is, instead, reminiscent of those slightly cheesy block buster disaster flicks you see on a certain science fiction network. (I described it to someone as largely a mix of Titanic and Life of Pi.)

The book is also extremely short for what I paid for it. I wouldn't have minded if the book didn't end abruptly. I think somewhere it's described as a cliffhanger. It's not. It's basically the end of a chapter and the book is over until the next one.

Now, I know it sounds a bit like I'm panning the book. I'm really not, but I think you should know what you're getting and what you're not.

Thinking of the book as a disaster book, it's fun, it's cheesy, it's thoroughly improbable, and I actually did enjoy it (once I stopped looking for it to be a dystopia!). You've got a terrific group of characters, some heartbreak, action and adventure, and yes…cheese. Now it is improbable. No spoilers here, but you are left scratching your head a lot. Why on earth did they do that? Wait a second…if they were going to do that to them, why bother with everything else they did?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Margaret W. Dendler on November 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I don't "review" books in general, but when I read one that is worth telling everyone about I'm happy to give a shout-out. "The Living" by Matt de la Pena is most definitely one of those books. It is probably worth mentioning that I am not the target audience for this book, and it is not the type of book I normally choose to read. Matt sold me on himself, as a person, first, and that intrigued me to read something he wrote.

I ran across Matt de la Pena for the first time at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Missouri a few weeks ago. He was one of the keynote speakers. I had a manuscript critique scheduled at the same time (with his editor, interestingly enough), so I missed the first half of the talk. When I came back into the conference room, the whole place was laughing and fully engaged. That's something unusual to find after the long morning they had already been through and right after lunch. It didn't take me long to figure out why they were so entertained. He was interesting to listen to and told his stories in a delightful and humorous way. I knew I would have to check out his books right away.

The first few books Matt has written are YA stories focused on inner-city and low income kids facing challenges in their own communities. I love the fact that those books are out there, but I wasn't sure how much I could connect with them--being near 50 and about as WASPy as one can get. But his new book, "The Living," stepped outside of that and put his characters in a world I could relate to. Some of the language and phrasing threw me off a bit at first, but I got used to it quickly and just got lost in the story. It's hard to say much of anything without giving away the fun of being shocked by events as they unfold.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jose Moreno on November 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing novel! Full of action and very well constructed. I'm sure Matt de la Peña is going to be a very important name in the YA Literature.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Book Vacation on February 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This was an interesting premise, but its execution wasn’t my favorite. It follows Shy as he works on a boat, hungers after a co-worker who is engaged to be married in a few months, and tries to deal with the death of his grandmother to a deadly new strain of virus while also coping with the suicide of a guest aboard the ship. Truth be told, I never did get to the point where I connected with Shy (or any of the self absorbed characters, for that matter); his antics didn’t impress me, and his near obsession with his co-worker rubbed me the wrong way. Add in the extreme foreshadowing that begins almost from the very first page, and I ended up knowing the ending before I was even a quarter of the way through, which is unfortunate.

I really liked the idea behind the novel, but it was just too obvious for me, and there wasn’t much that actually surprised me as I read. It was also a bit too long–as if everything was dragged out and I think it could have definitely been shortened, or at least had a conclusion. de la Pena only goes part of the way through the story, ending on a big finale that solidified what I already knew, and didn’t have any closure whatsoever. I felt that the beginning and middle dragged on for much too long, and then the end was a quick succession of unbelievable stunts and antics that honestly didn’t do anything for me as a reader.
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