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.

The Gone Novels, by Michael Grant

There are nine in all. Self heard about them only a few weeks ago, when she was in London. She went to the London Review Bookshop and on the lower floor, where Charles sits, was a stack of colorful paperbacks. She picked up one, and it had a blurb by Stephen King. As soon as she got home, she checked out two of the series, the only two that were available from her local library.

She started with Plague, Gone # 4: It’s been eight months since all the adults disappeared. GONE . . .

The kids are all alone (Self thinks: well, at least they’re in a California beach town, not in some arena). It has a sort of Lord of the Flies vibe (i.e. dystopian), but with drinking and sex (Yes, sex between American teens is a given, or at least it was until the current era).

One teen develops a parasitic infection. It appears there’s a hive of biting insects that lives in his shoulder: EEEEUWWWW) Others develop a coughing sickness.

Three girls, all named Jennifer (LOL) have banded together in a house. One of the Jennifers dies. Here’s a conversation between the two remaining Jennifers:

“Jen . . . I’m going to . . . hospital.”

No answer.

“Are you alive?”

Jennifer L. coughed, she wasn’t dead, and she coughed normally, not the crazy spasms that had killed Jennifer H. But she didn’t answer.

So Jennifer Boyles set off, on her own. She slid on her butt down the stairs, blankets gathered around her. Shivering, teeth chattering.

She managed to stand long enough to reach the front door and open it. But she sat down again very unexpectedly on the porch. Hard on her butt. She sat there shaking until the chills passed.

She tripped walking down the porch stairs. The fall bruised her left knee badly. This destroyed the last of her will to stand up. But not the last of her will to live.

Jennifer began to crawl. Hands and knees. Down the sidewalk. Impeded by her blankets. Delayed by coughing fits. Pausing whenever the chills rattled her so hard she could only moan and hack and roll onto her side.

“Keep going,” she muttered. “Gotta keep going.”

It took her two hours to crawl as far as Brace Road.

Plague, pp. 42- 43

This is good stuff!

Stay tuned.

Flower of the Day: Ali Wall Shift Dress

Self had a fantastic time in East London, where she discovered her new favorite London store, Wall and Jones, on Hackney Road.

For today’s Flower of the Day (hosted by Cee Neuner), self is sharing a picture of one of her finds, a sleeveless shift dress with hoodie, by English designer Ali Wall. Hey, the print has white roses! Love it so much. When she wears it, she feels like she’s wearing an impressionist painting.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Friday: Meg Barton

RELATIVITY

from the chapbook I’d Still Have Been Annoyed About the Plums, a Poets House Pamphlet

Yesterday I threw out the shirt that I hate,
the one with the not-quite-comfortable collar.
Now that I am rid of it,
my mornings will be straightforward.

Today I threw away that hideous mug,
always the only one left in the cupboard.
Now that it’s gone,
drinking my coffee will always be a pleasure.

And now that Anna left last week,
Anna at work, who drove us all mad
with her grating voice and constant need for attention,
now she’s departed,
the rest of us will be able to live in harmony.

So how is it I never noticed
the other hated shirt before —
the one with the irritating buttons?
Or that mug with a chip on the handle?

And funny how annoying Gerald at work has suddenly become,
Eating his apple like that.

Flower of the Day (FOTD): Walking from Hackney Street to Bethnal Green, East London

Self undertook this walk last Sunday. It was a gorgeous day, lots of people were out and about, maybe because of the Columbia St. Flower Market? She had every intention of scoping out this world-famous Flower Market in East London, but was distracted by all the wee little boutiques and alleys and coffee shops along the way. So dear blog readers will have to settle for these:

Posting for Cee Neuner’s Flower of the Day.

Six-Word Saturday: Hackney City Farm, Goldsmiths Row, London

For the past week, self has been exploring East London. Well, maybe ‘exploring’ isn’t the right word: she’s been mostly reading and writing and sending stuff out and trying to get home sooner so she can vote in the California primary — it may seem funny to cut a trip short just to vote in a primary, but she takes nothing for granted these days.

Here are the positions up for vote: California U.S. Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Member of State Board of Equalization, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, U.S. Representative in Congress, State Senator, State Assembly Member, as well as other local candidates. She is, of course, voting Democrat all the way down the ballot. And if there’s one thing she’s proud about, it’s about raising a son who’ll vote Democrat all the way down the ballot, too!

These past six years have been exhausting: she’s cut off ties with friends she’s known for decades, because all of a sudden they’re calling Hillary “ugly” and say women should not be wearing pantsuits. Think it’s ridiculous? So does self.

Anyhoo, while knocking about East London (which is as far from tourist-y as you can get in London), she stumbled onto a working farm. You can smell the manure from a long way off, it is a little disconcerting, but at least all self had to do was follow her nose.

What a place, though! It sells cheese, grains, veggies — the usual stuff sold by an organic farm. And the minders look exactly like the people in California. In fact, they may even look slightly more hippie-ish than organic farmers do back home. East London hippies — self never knew such a type existed!

Posting this for Travel with Intent’s Six-Word Saturday Challenge.

Flower of the Day: Wisteria, East London

Still traveling! For Cee Neuner’s Flower of the Day Challenge, has self got a special treat for dear blog readers!

Today she dropped by Hackney City Farm (an honest-to-goodness working farm, with goats and cows and sheep, right in the heart of East London) and photographed the wisteria hanging over the entrance. Gorgeous, right?

There is an Italian restaurant on the premises, but it wasn’t open yet at the time of self’s visit. She will return.

Water Water Everywhere: Rossglass Beach, Northern Ireland

Rossglass Beach, County Down, is one of the most beautiful beaches self has ever seen. Truly spectacular. Don’t know if time of day (sunset) had anything to do with it, but most likely. The beach was empty except for a few teen-agers, who were having the best time in the frigid water, in just their skivvies.

Posting for Jez Braithwaite’s Water Water Everywhere Challenge:

FOTD, April 25: Snowdrops, River Mill, Northern Ireland

This is such a beautiful garden! Love this little stream, and its bank of flowers.

Posting for Cee Neuner’s Flower of the Day.

Poetry Wednesday: Paul Maddern

Excerpt, Found: I

— from letters sent by Paul Nash to his wife Margaret

21 March 1917, near La Clytte:

The willows are orange,
the poplars carmine with buds,
the streams gleam brightest blue
and flights of pigeons
go wheeling about the fields.

Messed up with all this normal
beauty of nature you see
the strange beauty of war.

  • Paul Maddern was born in Bermuda and lives in Co. Down, Northern Ireland. He obtained his PhD at the Seamus Heaney Centre and has since taught at the universities of Leeds, Edinburgh and Queen’s Belfast. Found I is from the collection Pilgrimage (Templar Poetry, 1917)

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