Review: The Living by Matt de la Peña

the plot

I expected more action at the beginning, but instead The Living starts off in a contemporary setting. Shy, the main character, is an employee on a cruise ship, and while on his shift, comes across a rich business man, named Mr. Williamson, who ends up jumping over the side of the boat, committing suicide, only Shy tries to save him, but fails, and this is where the plot really starts off. Except, that’s not where the actions starts.

It’s very slow going, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just expected this book to be more fast paced. The first part of the book weaves in some romance, highlights the issues of racial discrimination, and really puts emphasis on the importance of family, especially for Shy and Carmen who’ve both lost someone recently to fatal disease called Romero Disease.

While enjoyed the first part, it at times felt a little off, since the blurb is all about the action that doesn’t take place until part two, when the earthquake occurs and tsunami causes the cruise ship to wreck. After that, there’s a lot of action, including being stuck in the middle of th ocean on a raft, while sharks are circling below.

I don’t want to say much about part three, since there’s not much to say without spoiling something, but I felt like the ending was very unexpected, even though there was foreshadowing beforehand. I look forward to reading the sequel!

the characters

Shy’s relationship with everyone, how he treats them, and is always aware of how they feel, or will react to something is probably what I loved most about his character. Shy is in love with Carmen, who is engaged to boy back home, which creates somewhat of a love triangle, even though the third person is never present, he’s still a barrier between them. By the end of the book, I wasn’t sure what was happening between them, but I don’t think they knew either. Basically, the romance isn’t very heavy, but it does influence Shy quite a bit.

Marcus and Rodney, a few of Shy’s friends, were very minor characters, but I loved how Shy didn’t instantly forget about them in the action of things, he still worried about them, and it was obvious he cared for everyone he become close with, which is something I rarely see in YA literature. Though, his relationship with Addie wasn’t exactly ideal, he still manages to treat her with respect, and she becomes something of a love interest for him while their stuck in the middle of the ocean.

Shy is just SUCH a likable character, basically.


I really enjoyed this book. This book hasn’t received much of a response in the book blogosphere, which is sad because it’s such as great book that touches on so many great topics, while keeping things entertaining and the voice believable. I wouldn’t say this is one of my favorite books, but it’s among some of the best books I’ve read. I think Matt de la Pena should be a much more popular author than he is.

If you like action, survival, post-apocalyptic-like books, you should definitely pick this book up!

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