10 September 2013, Candlewick Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
It’s 1962, and Scott’s father has built an addition onto their house, and included a fallout shelter underneath it. In alternating chapters, we see what life is like for Scott during this time period—his friend Ronnie’s parents are much more progressive than his own, he and his friends hang out and steal a cheesecake from a neighbor’s garage freezer—and after a bomb is dropped and Scott’s family and several others make it into the shelter and have to stay there for a week. It is awfully grim in the shelter because Scott’s mother has been badly injured. There is little water, inadequate ventilation, and very little food. To make matters worse, Mr. McGovern is ready to send both Scott’s mother and Janet, a black woman, out into the post-apocalyptic landscape because there isn’t enough food. Eventually, supplies run low enough that the group decides they will try their luck out of the shelter—only to find that the trap door has been blocked and the group may be trapped.
Strengths: This is one of the better books about the Cuban Missile Crisis era that I have read. The group in the fallout shelter gave a weird immediacy and survival quality to the book, set against the every day life before the group goes into the shelter. Details are very vivid, and it’s obvious that Strasser lived through this time period. (In fact, there is a picture of the house where he grew up and a description of his visiting it and the fallout shelter recently!)
Weaknesses: There are some weird, uncomfortable and unnecessary descriptions of things of a sexual nature that may well cause me not to buy this—Ronnie is obsessed with women’s breasts, both boys are interested in Playboy (which Ronnie’s dad reads in front of Scott in the family room!), and there is a weird discussion of homosexuals. All ring true for the era, but seem especially awkward now.