Sequel to The Living
By Matt de la Peña
Available now from Delacorte (Penguin Random House)
I have wanted to read THE HUNTED since the moment I finished THE LIVING, and hearing Matt de la Peña read the first chapter at a book signing only whetted my appetite. THE HUNTED starts about a month later, when Shy, Carmen, Marcus, and Shoeshine finally make it to California.
In THE LIVING, they had to mainly survive a fight against nature. Now, they have to mainly escape people. A biker gang is killing travelers to keep them from spreading the Romero virus. And a certain entity wants to kill Shy and his friends because they know too much about the virus. Their only hope is to hike across a picked-over post-apocalyptic California to Arizona. It is a brutal journey.
I don't think THE HUNTED can truly be enjoyed without THE LIVING. De la Peña recaps the bare minimum, particularly when it comes to character relationships. I certainly don't think the passages involving Addie have much meaning if you haven't read the first book. Fortunately, both books in the duology are quick reads. The chapters are short of full of action, which keeps the pages turning.
I felt that Shoeshine was more of a plot mechanism than a character in THE LIVING, so I like that he's a little more fleshed out in THE HUNTED. A former soldier is still an incredibly lucky person to have by your side in a survival situation, but THE HUNTED gives hints of his hobbies and of his past.
I'm also truly thankful that rape isn't used as a threat in THE HUNTED. It is overplayed in dystopian/post-apocalyptic books, like everybody - not just rapists - couldn't resist the urge if civilization collapsed. People are too busy being awful to each other in other ways. (To be fair, a virus with a 100% death rate is scary.)
THE HUNTED is a great survival against the odds story. The protagonist, Shy, is hugely likeable. I could read many more books featuring him. I'm happy to leave it at two, although there are some unanswered questions that de la Peña could answer in a third book. Be sure to read THE LIVING and THE HUNTED if you like quick books about intense journeys and noble causes featuring diverse casts.