Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Hunted

The Hunted

Matt de la Pena
For ages 13 and up
Random House, 2015   ISBN: 978-0385741224

Just a few months ago Shy got a job on a cruise ship, a summer job lasting eight days that he hoped would be lucrative and not too onerous. Unfortunately for him things did not work out as planned. Huge earthquakes hit the west coast of the United States while the ship was at sea, and the resulting tsunami destroyed the cruise ship. By some miracle Shy and a few other people from the ship survived, and they made it to a small island.

While he was on the island, Shy found out that a deadly disease that appeared in Mexico and southern California, a disease that killed his grandmother not long ago, wasn’t just a horrible fluke of nature. It was manufactured by a company called LasoTech, and the plan was that after unleashing the disease LasoTech would come to the rescue and offer the world a cure. For a price.

Very few people knew about what LasloTech had done and the people from LasloTech planned on keeping things that way. They started to systematically kill everyone on the island. The only non-company people who escaped were Shy, two other cruise ship staff members called Carmen and Marcus, and an old man called Shoeshine. In their possession they had vials of a vaccine and a piece of a letter that documented everything that LasloTech has done. Somehow Shoeshine always seems to know what is going to happen before it happens, which is why he had a boat ready and waiting when the killings began.

Now, after thirty-six miserable days at sea, the little ship containing the three survivors, guided by Shoeshine’s compass, brings them to Venice Beach in California. Shy and his companions know that the earthquakes were bad, but they had no idea how bad. The California they left not that long ago is gone. Many buildings are destroyed, thousands were killed by collapsing structures and fires, and then the disease spread like wildfire and it has killed many thousands more.

Now the city has been carved up into “zones,” which are policed by gangs on bikes and motorbikes. The idea is to keep people from traveling from place to place, to prevent the spread of the disease. In theory this is a good idea, but Shy, Marcus, and Carmen want to find their families, and Shoeshine wants to deliver the vaccines and the letter to people who can use the information to halt the spread of the disease; and bring down LasloTech.

Shy and his companions barely get their feet dry on Californian soil before they run into trouble. They have no idea what has been going on since the earthquakes and don’t know about the new ‘rules’ regarding zones. Thankfully, a few people take pity on them and they finally manage to make it to one of the few safe havens in the area. While they are there, two things happen that shake Shy’s world to the core. First of all his estranged dad turns up, a man who has suddenly decided that he wants to be a father again. Secondly, Shy sees things that help him realize that he cannot just go home. He has do his part to help prevent more deaths, which means that he is going to have to travel with Shoeshine and get the vaccine into the right hands.

This grim story picks up where The Living left off. Shy went through so much after his ship sank, but all of those horrible experiences somehow pale in significance to what happens to him and his friends when they get back to the United States. They realize that they cannot turn back the clock, and that they have to figure out where they belong in their new world. Some of the choices that they make are heartbreaking, and some of the realizations that they come to change them forever.