Sam Temple, a fifteen year old boy who is one of the few left after all of the adults of Perdido Beach, CA is faced with a horrifying realization that an enemy from his past has come back for revenge, while his nemesis Caine plots to destroy the town and steal the food so his people will survive. It has been months since the coast California town of Perdido Beach was cut off from the rest of the world and everyone over the age of fifteen has disappeared. Since the disappearance the remaining youth have fallen into different factions. The students from the upscale Coates Academy follow the sinister merciless Caine, in Perdio Beach, Sam Temple, Caine's brother resides with his friends Astrid and Quinn as well as Astrid's little brother Pete an autistic 4 year old who is tied to the creation of the barrier that keeps them in Perdido Beach. The group must also watch out for the citizens who target those who have obtained superpowers after the event occurred. These citizens named the “Human Crew” have made those with special gifts targets and they refuse to stop until all have been rooted out. It was determined that the powers were gifted to various individuals by the gaiaphage, an alien virus with a mind of its own that can touch the children's minds. It is determined early by Astid the gaiaphage was created by an accident at the nuclear power plant on the outskirts of town over 15 years before.
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Astrid begins to realize that Sam cannot continue to lead the children on his own as it as beginning to wear him down. She decides to create a town council in an effort to alleviate pressure off Sam so he can catch a break as well as instill rules and regulations for everyone to follow. With the new rules in place Astrid and Sam hope they can bring order to the chaos that surrounds them. However, not all can stay peaceful for long. Sam is approached by a young woman named Sinder who warns him of a girl named Orsay who can read people's dreams. Since this gift has been revealed many of the children flock to her and have begun to follow her teaches. Sinder warns Sam she has become to call herself a prophet.
Later, Sam begins to look into Orsay and meets with her. She reveals to him that has developed the skill to see and interpret dreams of people outside of the barrier. Orsay has also befriended a girl named Nerezza who he doesn't know. While she keeps to herself, something about her feels off to Sam and he is determined to get to the bottom of it. Sam teams up with his friend Edilio, an immigrant who was trapped within the barrier and together they discover an open grave that belonged to a girl named Brittney who was thought to have died. At first, Edilio believes they should report it to the new Town Council but Sam feels that will only cause a problem. With peace finally beginning to settle over the group, he has no interest in bringing chaos and worry into the fold. The two of them decide to keep it to themselves for the time being.
The next day several of the children stumble upon a horrific sight—a young boy's corpse who has washed up on the shore of the beach. They call on Sam who investigates the body and discovers the child was whipped beyond recognition. He immediately recognizes the markings and determines that Drake Merwin, a dangerous boy who developed a power that caused his hand to turn into a human whip has returned. Astrid and the others don't believe him seeing as he was presumed dead after Caine killed him. However, all evidence points to him still being alive.
Meanwhile, at Coates Academy Caine and the youth who follow him are dying. Due to the lack of food and resources, starvation is slowly taking over. Therefore, in an effort to survive, Caine and the group turn on one another and resort to cannibalism in an attempt to weed out the weak and survive. Caine knows that this can't go on forever and his group must make it into Perdido Beach if they have any chance. However, Caine's right hand man nicknamed, Bug, believes that it is possible food could be on an island off the coast due to an old magazine he discovers. Caine believes this could be his answer and redemption and begins to make preparations to find it.
Back in Perdido, tensions are on the rise as Sam and Astrid decide what to do with the possibility of Drake being back. Later that night, Caine and his group set fire to the town and escape with a boat they plan to take to the island. The fire begins to engulf the buildings and Caine is able to steal about. As the group heads out to see they are spotted and one of the boats is shot. As it sinks and the people call out to Caine for help he makes the decision to sacrifice them as he believes less mouths to feed will be beneficial in the long run.
As Sam's group tries to put out the fire, Sam spots Drake. Enraged due to his past with Drake and being tortured to the point of death, Sam pursues him and follows him to the beach. However, once confronting him Sam is paralyzed by fear unable to attack. Drake reveals that one of the other youth known as Lana who had the power of healing brought him back and through new life of the missing dead girl Brittney he is back. However, Brittney is fighting for control of Drake's body which results in moments where she peeks through and then Drake takes back control of the body. Sam returns to his group and they manage to put out the fire but the causalities are severe. Astrid and Sam get into a power struggle as she claims he is out of control and should have never left his people to follow Drake. Sam decides to leave town as he is furious for always being blamed for the problems that occur.
Meanwhile, Caine and what's left of his group come to shore on the island and discover several children, two being Sanjit and Choo who have had no idea of the happenings going on in Perdido Beach. Realizing that Caine has a darkness within him, the two brothers drug his food and escape the island for their lives.
Back in town, Astrid finds herself confronted by the Town Council and the rest of the youth for lying about knowing that Brittney was still alive and that Orsay was a prophet. Nerezza turns up with the bad boy of the town known as Zil who runs his own gang. Together along with Drake they create chaos in the town and begin to force the group to the beach for a final stand off. Sam is summoned by a girl named Brianna who manages to escape the chaos and tells him he must return as she believes that Orsay is using Nerezza to complete a mass suicide of the children as she was told in a dream they would return to their families if they do so. Horrified, Sam rushes back to town and discovers that Nerezza is not a real girl but a physical manifestation of the gaiaphage and has killed Orsay.
A battle breaks out on the cliff and Sam destroys Nerezza and saves the children. He is also able to capture Drake who continues to be possessed by the spirit of Brittney. Astrid and Sam lock Drake in the basement feeling he is safer there and refusing to kill him due to Brittney's spirit being trapped inside. As devastation lies all around them, the group wonders what could be in store knowing the gaiaphage is out there and ready to destroy them all.
Best part of story, including ending:
I really enjoyed how this novel in the series really began to show the chaos surrounding the youth and how leadership and structure was needed if they were going to survive. You also feel slightly sorry for Caine whose people are starving and you get to watch him finally pay for his past wrong doing.
Best scene in story:
I loved Caine leaving his people to drown when their boats are shot at during the fire as they escape to the island which may have food. It is a great image as Caine really shows how horrific he truly is and that he has no mercy even for his own.
Opinion about the main character:
Sam continues to be a kindhearted young man that tends to continuously create problems as he tries to take care of everyone and make things run smoothly on his own. It is also nice to see his relationship with Astrid going through a rocky patch as it will only make them stronger later.