Shy thought he was "cruising" through summer - Mother Nature had other plans


Shy, a high school student, takes a summer job aboard a cruise ship. He earns money to help his family recuperate after his grandmother’s gruesome death, he can make some friends, and he gets to check out the ladies. Sweet! Life aboard the ship takes a turn for the worse when an earthquake hits. Now he's in the middle of a major disaster. Shy is now stranded at sea with a rude rich girl he can barely stand. What he doesn't know is that the earthquake is just the beginning. The worse is yet to come for those who manage to survive. 

BTSYA / Teen Reader (16):
The Living is an intense story packed with action and full of twists and turns. It is well written, and the author does a good job crafting realistic characters like Shy who each have their own flaws. The characters' past experiences make way for some very important events in the book. He includes some food for thought when topics of race, class, human nature are mentioned during parts of the novel. The same goes for how major disasters can bring people together or tear them apart.

Unfortunately, I felt like those themes were drowned out by the action and the novel's apocalyptic focus. Matt de la Pena had the opportunity to create a meaningful message of change for the reader, but the story doesn't take that path. The pacing progresses pretty rapidly and drastically. I found Shy’s frequent attention over women a bit unpleasant.  Because of the sexual references, violence, and extensive bad language, I would suggest that this book is for readers 14 or older who like fast paced and heart pounding reads.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Teen readers who love disaster stories won't be able to tear themselves away. The Living is packed with action, adventure, and plenty for them to think about in the choices we make and the way humans treat each other in the toughest times. 

Content Awareness Factors:

There are sexual references, violence, and profanity woven extensively into the plot of this action adventure.

Type of Book:
This young adult novel explores themes of race, class, and human nature through an apocalyptic disaster story.
Educational Themes:

Although a fictional story, there are plenty of "nuggets" of history - earthquakes and tsunamis are real, and some readers may be interested in learning more facts about these phenomena. Shy is our narrator, and readers see the world through his eyes. As our teen reviewer points out, events in the story present scenes that can prompt discussions about race, judgment, choices, and other behaviors.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
14 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
13 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 16
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow. Readers who like fast-paced, semi-realistic adventures will not be disappointed.
book cover

Title The Living

The Living Series, Book 1

Author Matt de la Pena
Publisher Ember, Imprint Penguin Random House Canada © 2015 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9780385741217
Material Paperback
Cost $9.99
Genres Adventure, Friendship, Science Fiction
be the star you are Cybils
Other Reviews:

More Reviews

Here are some other books we have reviewed that you may like!


Melissa Stewart
Collins, Imprint HarperCollins Publishers © 2008


Simon Winchester, Dwight Zimmerman
HarperCollins Publishers © 2008


Walter Dean Myers


Deborah Hopkinson
be the star you are Cybils

Similar Books

Check out these similar books on amazon


Author Matt de la Pena
Publisher Ember, Imprint Penguin Random House Canada © 2016 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9780385741231


Author Lauren Tarshis
Publisher Scholastic Inc. © 2013
ISBN 9780545459372


Author Lauren Tarshis
Publisher Scholastic Inc. © 2012
ISBN 9780545206990