Author: Todd Strasser
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Check out this book on Goodreads.
What if the bomb had actually been dropped? What if your family was the only one with a shelter?
In the summer of 1962, the possibility of nuclear war is all anyone talks about. But Scott’s dad is the only one in the neighborhood who actually prepares for the worst. As the neighbors scoff, he builds a bomb shelter to hold his family and stocks it with just enough supplies to keep the four of them alive for two critical weeks. In the middle of the night in late October, when the unthinkable happens, those same neighbors force their way into the shelter before Scott’s dad can shut the door. With not enough room, not enough food, and not enough air, life inside the shelter is filthy, physically draining, and emotionally fraught. But even worse is the question of what will — and won’t — remain when the door is opened again. Internationally best-selling author Todd Strasser has written his most impressive and personal novel to date, ruthlessly yet sensitively exploring the terrifying what-ifs of one of the most explosive moments in human history. (Source: Goodreads)
This book is a reimagining of the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In this alternate history Russia bombs the United States. The book follows Scott and his family who have been building a bomb shelter, the only one in the neighbourhood, and have to survive the two weeks following the bombing on small rations because 6 others join them in the shelter. The book also chronicles the events leading up to the night of the bombing and the social environment of the 1950s and 60s.
I think this was a really interesting book, and it was also very well written. I have never really read a book that was a reimagining of historical events but I think this was a really interesting situation to have written about. I think the events surrounding the situation are really interesting and create a really good base for the action of the novel. I really enjoyed reading this because it was well written and read easily.
Scott is an interesting character, he’s very curious about the future and while he’s scared he still stands up for himself and his family when the time comes. I liked his dad and his little brother. Many of the other characters in the book made me angry, which is to be expected. His best friend, Ronnie, was the worst of them. Something about that kid was just twisted. He abuses animals, watches naked people constantly, and was just all around bad news. This created an interesting dynamic with Scott who is a good kid and a caring kid.
The events of the book alternate between after the bomb and before the bomb, and finally meet at the end of the book. This was a really good idea on Strasser’s part because it keeps the book from being monotonous. Without the alternating chapters the shelter scenes would have been really repetitive, because not a whole lot can happen in a bomb shelter. This really makes your interest rise though as events are foreshadowed and hinted at throughout the chapter alternations.
The social context of the book is really important. Strasser writes about the war, communism, segregation, homosexuality, and social class throughout the book, using Scott as a vehicle for learning about and forming opinions on these topics. Scott learns about all kind of inequality, especially with discussion of segregation. Many people in the book do not treat Janet, the families maid, very well because she is black. However the family loves her and the bond between the children and Janet is really strong. The love between the boys and Janet is really touching and seeing Scott’s anger towards those who want segregation is really a great moment in the book. One of the more open ended topics, which I feel really should have been addressed more was homosexuality. Ronnie insults Scott regularly, calling him “queer” and while Scott doesn’t like this the book leaves it kind of open ended. Unlike Scott strong belief that segregation is wrong there isn’t anything to really show opinions on homosexuality expect this homophobic voice from Ronnie. I didn’t really like this because I think it should have been addressed at some point before the end of the book. Otherwise I think Strasser paints a pretty good picture of the social environment of the 1950s and 60s.
I really enjoyed this book. I think it’s a good idea to have this sort of reimagining of past events, because it kind of shows what could have happened and why it shouldn’t ever happen again. I think it’s also a really interesting spin on the popular dystopia/post-apocalyptic genre. I think it was well written and interesting. I think this is a really good book for middle school and up. I should also mention that you probably need a bit of background knowledge about the cold war to understand what it happening leading up to the action of the book. I highly recommend this book because of its unique plot and the quality of the story.