Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Nice, Cozy Fall(out Shelter)

I stumbled upon this little book while processing in new items at the library the other day. I love that perk! I see all the new stuff first. Mwahahahaaaa! This book is by no means my typical fare, either. I typically steer clear of anything (post)apocalyptic and/or depressing. I read for fun - emphasis on fun. ("but, nothing says 'happy, happy joy, joy' like an old fashioned nuclear winter," you say?) But the premise of this novel caught my eye, and it held my interest so thoroughly I finished it in less than 24 hours.

The Basics
Bodeen, S.A. The Compound. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2008. Print.

S.A. Bodeen started as an author of children's books, but upgraded to the Young Adult level with her novel The Compound. She has since written further YA books. Bodeen grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, which might explain her love of cheese (although, really, who doesn't love cheese?). Bodeen's YA endeavors seem to lean toward the incredibly cheerful dystopic genre, such as her novels The Gardener and The Raft (both of which look super interesting, by the by).

The Book
The Compound is the story of Eli, a young man who, along with his family, is forced to take shelter from a nuclear attack and its results in the titular Compound. Constructed by Eli's billionaire father, the Compound is a massive underground structure filled with luxury: just one problem - the food supply is starting to experience technical difficulties. Meanwhile, the family is getting a little stir crazy, and Eli's father has come up with a uniquely abhorrent method of extending the food supply. As the family grows suspicious of the father's motivations, Eli stumbles upon the laptop originally intended for his brother, who was unfortunately left behind when the family had to run for it. And then he finds an internet connection...

So, the premise of the book - family trapped in a underground compound hiding from an apparent nuclear winter with a seriously unstable head of house - very intriguing. I could not put this book down. It starts slow, with Eli waking up from his self-centered little fog of an existence and starting to question the situation. There's not much question over where the plot is heading, the appeal is in the suspense surrounding it all. As Eli gets closer to the truth the suspense builds and builds. Then all hell breaks loose as the family tries to escape. Bodeen manages her readers' building emotions very well, carefully building the tension until we finally (finally!) reach catharsis.  You get to that last twist, where you're thinking, "oh, come ON!" and she stops right there.

Eli is another intriguing component to the book. I hated him. He's a selfish little prig of a 15 year old who admires his muscles in the mirror, bullies his sisters, and willfully maintains a state of denial. I want to gouge his eyes out. But he nevertheless held my attention quite steadily. He develops quite well as a character over the course of the book, presenting a fascinating array of psychological issues that he has to work through. And, really, who wouldn't be a little messed up after 6 years in the Compound? I still didn't like him by the end of the novel, but I didn't hate his guts either.

All told, not my favorite book ever, but certainly one of the more fascinating reads. I highly recommend it. It's also chock full of issues, moral dilemmas, and strange characters, which provide ample talking points for use in a book group or classroom (*cough*AuntCaiti*cough*).



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