Penny in PLAGUE, a GONE novel

These characters — a whole slew of them — are as vivid and realized as can be. They talk like teenagers, they drink like teenagers, they swear like teenagers.

p. 220:

“You okay?” Caine asked Diana.

“She’s perfect,” Penny said. “Perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect skin. Plus she has legs that work, which is really cool.”

“I’m out of here,” Caine said.

“No,” Diana said. “Help me lift her back out.”

“Yeah, Caine, don’t you want to see me naked? I’m still kind of hot. If you don’t mind my legs. Just don’t look at them. Because they’ll kind of make you sick.”

Both of Penny’s ankles are broken. And because all the adults have disappeared, and that includes doctors and nurses, “there was no way to fix her legs . . . and nothing to treat the pain but Tylenol and Motrin.” All that’s holding Penny’s ankles together are “two pairs of socks.”

How did both of Penny’s ankles get broken? Caine broke them. But Penny still has to live with Caine and his girlfriend, Diana. She doesn’t wash or go to the bathroom, which is why Diana finally decides to take matters into her own hands, and drags Penny to the tub (at least there is running water).

Diana maneuvered to bear most of Penny’s weight and lower her bottom first into the hot water. Her twisted pipe-cleaner legs dragged, then followed their owner into the tub. Penny screamed. “Sorry,” Diana said.

“Oh God, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts!”

Did self mention that these books are listed as YA? But there is nothing YA about these characters. She can’t believe she never heard about these novels until she saw a stack of them on Charles’s desk on the lower floor of the London Review Bookshop, a month ago (There are nine books in the series). To her great surprise, the author turned out to be American. And the characters were American teenagers in self’s own home state of California. To think she had to go all the way to London — to the London Review Bookshop — to find out about them.

Pretty good reading, this one. And the horror — the horror — is stellar.

Stay tuned.


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