(Image from Barnes & Noble)
With the threat of nuclear war hanging in the balmy air, the summer of 1962 feels unlike any other. Scott Porter spends the long, school-free days doing what he's always done—playing baseball with his friends, spying on girls, trying to stay out of trouble—but the 11-year-old goes home to alarming newspaper headlines and hissed, heated discussions between his parents. To the endless amusement of their less-paranoid neighbors, Scott's dad has built a bomb shelter for his family. If worse comes to worst, the Porters will have everything they need to survive underground for two weeks, the time it will take for the radiation-saturated air to clear. Scott hopes there will never be a need to use the shelter, but as global tension intensifies, he can't be quite sure there will be a tomorrow at all.
When the unthinkable happens, Scott finds himself crammed into the shelter, not just with his family but also with six of his disbelieving neighbors. The supplies Scott's father stocked can't last for long, not with ten people using them. And civility's running out even faster. As the days wear on, the shell-shocked refugees must learn to survive—not just whatever happened in the outside world, but everything that's taking place inside the crowded shelter. With tempers flaring, food being rationed, and cabin fever taking its toll, busting out of the shelter is looking better and better. No one knows what's happened to the New York they left above ground. Do the terrified shelter-dwellers dare to emerge? What will they find if they do? Which will kill them faster—radiation, starvation or each other? Scott's about to find out.
Everything about the premise of Fallout by Todd Strasser appeals to me. An imminent apocalypse? Check. Neighbors pitted against neighbors in a desperate bid for survival? Check. A tense, psychological examination of people's actions in a time of crisis, told from a child's point-of-view? Check, check. Because, apparently, I have a warped sense of what is entertaining, I really, really wanted to read this book. So, I did. Is the story as fascinating as it sounds? In a word: yes. Fallout tells a tense, compelling tale that kept me burning through the pages to find out the fate of the survivors. If it weren't for some weird, awkward discussions about naked women (including the boys' mothers), I would have really enjoyed this one. Given those odd scenes, plus the fact that Fallout is (naturally) quite depressing, this novel turned into just an okay read for me. Ah, well.
(Readalikes: Reminded me of other books about groups of people struggling to survive crises in enclosed spaces like Trapped by Michael Northrop; The Compound by S.A. Bodeen; and The Diary of Anne Frank; also of Countdown by Deborah Wiles, which is also about the Cuban Missile Crisis)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (no F-bombs), violence, sexual innuendo and mature themes
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Fallout from the generous folks at Candlewick Press. Thank you!