The Kill Order – by James Dashner (2012)

The Kill Order

Imagine our world having disaster after natural disaster. First the sun unleashes solar flares over much of the planet, instantly killing a large segment of the human race and coating the earth with residual radiation. The climate becomes unstable, and natural disasters follow, causing additional loss of life. The food supply becomes very limited, and people are starving. To top it all off, a strange virus is intentionally released by an unknown group, causing insanity and death.

Teenager Mark is the main character, followed by Trina, his best friend. They are in a subway tunnel when a tsunami approaches, and are rescued by Alec, a retired military man and Lana, also military. From that point on, they band together for survival. It’s obvious that Mark and Trina don’t stand a chance without the brain and braun of Alec, who becomes their protector.

The majority of the book is detailed action, blow-by-blow descriptions of how they fought for their lives. At every turn, there is someone attempting to kill them. Mark and Alec come close to being hung by a fringe religious group living in the woods. All around them, people are going insane and dying from the mysterious virus.

This dystopian novel was written for the young adult audience, but the storyline is extremely dark and grim. There is no order to society, and it’s every man for himself. Only the strongest survive. People will do anything for food, even killing children to eat. Mercy killing becomes a solution to the mayhem.

Although this is part of a very popular young adult series, I really cannot recommend it to anyone. While it did not contain any vulgar language – which I appreciated – the novel was so full of violence and despair that it leaves readers with the impression that death might be better than life. My opinion: life has enough negativity in it without reading depressing books like this. Look for something better to read.


I Survived The Children’s Blizzard, 1888 – by Lauren Tarshis (2018)

I Survived The Children's Blizzard

One of the best book series written for kids ages 7-10 has got to be “I Survived” by Lauren Tarshis. There are now 18 books, each one choosing an actual historic event, and telling what happening from the viewpoint of a fictitious young person. The winter of 1888 was particularly brutal on the midwest section of the United States, long and filled with blizzards.

The worst blizzard occurred in mid-January. There was an unexpected warm day with temperatures above freezing, so the children were all sent to school. Part-way through the day a cold front with high winds moved in, causing the temperature to go from the mid-30s to minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit in about an hour.  Other areas of the midwest, like Nebraska, were even colder, 40-50 degrees below zero. In the attempt to get home or to a place of shelter, 235 people died, many of them children. The author likely chose the Dakota territory for the setting so that she could include the history of the government offering people free land there if they were able to homestead it for five years.

Some people may say that books like this are too “scary” for children. Well, in many parts of the world, children face far more difficult situations. Here in the United States, we are often quite insulated from disasters and their consequences. It’s far better to realize that natural disasters happen everywhere on earth, prompting kids and adults alike to understand the situation and how to survive in such a time. This would be an excellent book for families to read together aloud.

Since each book in the series is about a totally different disaster, you can read just one book in the series, or read books in any order you want. If you and the young reader in your life have never read an “I Survived” book, I encourage you to pick one from your local school library, public library, or bookstore.

The Dead And The Gone – by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2008)

The Dead And The Gone

After enjoying “Life As We Knew It”, I found that it was the first of a four-book series. The library also had the second book in e-audiobook form, so I continued on. The second book is totally different from the first. It shifts from Miranda and her family in Pennsylvania to a 17-year-old named Alex Morales living in New York City. He lives in an apartment building in a poorer part of the city with his family; his father is the superintendent of the building. While his father is off in Puerto Rico for a family funeral, and his mother is at work in the operating room of a local hospital, the moon is struck by the asteroid.

The Morales family has a much different experience than Miranda’s family in the first book. Where Miranda’s mother was able to rush around snatching up supplies and driving to wherever they needed to be, the Morales kids are stuck with no money supply, no car, and no parents to give them guidance and comfort. It’s a dog-eat-dog atmosphere in New York City. There is, however, a more spiritual aspect to this novel than in the first book. The Morales are devout Catholics, and lean heavily on their faith to get through the trials. The local churches are among the few that seem to be interested in helping the city’s down and out residents. The book was definitely more graphic than the first. if you are prone to nightmares, this is probably not a disaster book you should read.

link to review of book 1:

Life As We Knew It – by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2008)

Life As We Knew It

I’ve always enjoyed disaster books and movies. Earlier this week I had a sinus headache that left me with blurry vision, so it was a good day for an audiobook. My library’s website has a great selection of e-audiobooks, and I chose “Life As We Knew It” and closed my eyes to listen.

The disaster in this book is an asteroid hitting the moon, which knocks it out of its usual orbit. Ocean tides and weather patterns are affected, causing earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis where there were none before. The main character is Miranda, a high school student living in northeastern Pennsylvania with her mother and brothers. Their neighbor, Mrs. Nesbit, is the grandmother figure in the story. Miranda’s father and his new wife, who are expecting their first child, are minor characters.

The family quickly adjusts to the difficult situation, and works well together. Although times are hard, there are enough friendships and light-hearted moments to keep the story from becoming impossibly grim. There aren’t any zombies or aliens in this story, just people who care about each other working together to stay alive in a damaged world.

The Final Day – by John Forstchen (2017)

The Final Day

It’s been about two years now since “The Day”. The day that some unknown country unleashed a massive EMP (electromagnetic pulse) on the United States, frying every modern electronic device. With no heat, lighting, electricity, or communication,  and every car built after 1970 inoperable, the country was crashed back into 1800s life. Unfortunately, very few people had any idea how to survive without the conveniences of the 1900s. Large amounts of people died of sickness, disease, extreme cold, or lack of food.

But a remnant of people who were able to learn the basics have survived in the little community of Black Mountain, North Carolina. John Matherson, the main character from the first two books, is their community leader. In addition to surviving the elements, they have had to survive attacks from other communities and a hostile group claiming to be the government. Now things are looking up, as they have some limited electricity, a mill, and primitive phone service. But as often happens, a messenger from far away brings word that threatens to undo all their hard work, and plunge them back into the dark times.

This is a fantastic look at what could actually happen in the situation of an EMP attack. The author said he wrote the books with the hope that our government would take serious steps to prevent the chaos and devastation pictured in this novel.

1st book: One Second After

2nd book: One Year After

Island, Book Three: Escape – by Gordon Korman (2007)

Island book 3

This is the finale to the “Island” trilogy. One of the six friends is on the verge of death, and the situation seems impossible. But despite the odds, they work together to save a life. In doing that, all their lives are saved.

This story is outstanding! It conveyed so well the concept of perseverance, no matter how hopeless the situation is. It also showed six young people putting aside their differences, coming together as friends, and stepping into adulthood.

Links to reviews of books 1 and 2:



Island, Book Two: Survival – by Gordon Korman (2007)

Island book 2

The second book in the “Island” trilogy picks up right where the first one ended. The six teens are on an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. At this point, they realize that if they want to survive, they have to put aside their petty disagreements. They start working together to find food, water, and shelter.

It isn’t long, however, before they discover that they are not alone on the island. And the other people are definitely not there to help them. To make matters worse, one of the six becomes seriously ill. Their only hope is to find some way off the island. Desperation binds the six together, and a plan is made to get at least one of them back to civilization.

I loved the growing friendship between the six teens in this book. Instead of constantly thinking of themselves, they began to think of others first, and what they could do to help and protect each other. Compassion and growing friendship made this a great read.