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'The Living' by Matt de la Peña: Action and adventure on the high seas

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The Living by Matt de la Peña


"The Living" by Matt de la Peña is kind of a combination "Titanic" infected with a deadly virus, a few tsunamis, and an evil corporation. That's a lot of action for any single book to handle.

But action lovers will really enjoy "The Living." De la Peña uses third person narration to deliver Shy, the protagonist's, point of view. He's a guy from the wrong side of the tracks who is trying to make some extra money for his family by working on an exclusive cruise ship during the summer.

His first trip is marred when a man jumps overboard right in front of Shy. Shy tries to stop him but fails. Then, on a subsequent cruise, he is questioned and followed by a strange man. At the same time, Shy finds he is attracted to a fellow Hispanic, Carmen, who unfortunately is engaged to a law student.

Both Shy and Carmen have lost a close family member to a new virus called Romero. It gives them a common bond as does their barrio upbringing.

There are many cataclysmic events that happen one-right-after-the-other. Shy survives them all only to find that his life is still in danger. In fact, the danger may change, but it never disappears, and at the end of the book he is still in danger.

This is only the first book in the series about Shy and what awaits him in the greatly-changed United States of America after a tremendous earthquake and a pandemic change in life as we know it.

De la Peña covers many themes in the story. It's a story of rich and poor, but it's also a survival story. It's about great natural disasters (earthquakes and tsunamis), but it's also about engineered diseases.

And while there are no great surprises, Shy's vulnerability and the strength of the narration make this a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. De la Peña creates strong characters that the readers will want to hear more about -- which bodes well for the next book in the series.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Delacorte Press, for review purposes.

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