So far, I've read three YA survival books. I've noticed that when deciding my opinion on them, there are a few factors that affect these stories very differently than others. First, the pacing isn't a factor. In particular, The Way We Fall had a very slow pace, but I didn't even notice until it was pointed out to me; the daily activities that the characters did to survive were interesting enough to pull it through. Second, a typical dramatic pattern isn't necessary - there doesn't have to be a true climax, as there wasn't inAshfall, to be good. And third, I need more detail on daily activities than normal. If I don't get that, I'm going to be bored with the plot, no matter how fast the pacing goes.
Gone had some elements of all three factors. While its pace wasn't as slow as in The Way We Fall, it was slower than what you'd find in a normal novel. It had a climax, but the rising action didn't build up to it the way you'd expect. And last but not least, daily activities were described in great detail. In my mind, this makes it a successful survival novel, and a successful novel overall.
The plot was rather interesting. Because as I said, its rising action didn't build up to the climax the way it would in a conventional novel. Grant let the focus waver, which, in my opinion, more aptly imitates real life. The characters didn't have much of a goal other than "survive", and until the end, it wasn't even "stop the villains". The action seemed rather random, but never to a fault - if it was a typical plot, it wouldn't feel as real.
But that's not to say that the plot wasn't held together. The characters' goals weren't particularly conventional, but everything was held together by a central mystery. This mystery could be a bit predictable at times (for example, I figured out the cause of the FAYZ long before any of the characters did), but overall, it was engaging enough to keep the plot from falling apart as it otherwise might've.
There was however, a lack of focus in what exactly the central plot was. There were long sections that talked about Lana's survival that were completely irrelevant to the plot until more than halfway through the book, and the day to day survival activities - while necessary - often felt tacked on when they didn't focus on the central characters.
But speaking of characters, they formed the novel's biggest strength. Not a single one of them didn't feel real or vivid, even the villains. I'd read the Animorphs series (co-written by Michael Grant, credited to K.A. Applegate, his writing partner) before now, so I expected this, but I was still impressed by Grant's ability to make me care about a character ark in a very short amount of time.
I also liked how inclusive the book was. Sam was rather poor with a missing father an and abusive stepfather, Eddilo (I have no idea if I got his name right) is an immigrant from Honduras, Little Pete is severely autistic, Mary has bulimia... I could go on. (In particular, the descriptions of bulimia were positively sickening, but accurate.)
The books weakest link, however, was the writing, particularly in the first half. But it actually felt more like an editing problem than a problem with Grant's writing. There are two reasons I say this. First, there are no large problems that crop up over and over. Instead, there are just a few instances of confusing sentences, repetition of sentence structure, fragments, ect. Each of these problems on their own wouldn't be very noteworthy, but they all combined together to form a book that felt awkwardly written at times. Second, none of these problems cropped up at all in the Animorphs series.
Overall, this is definitely a worthwhile read. If you're a fan of Grant's over works, or survival stories, or stories with well-rendered characters and great plots, you could do a lot worse than to buy this book.