Monday, August 26, 2013

What If the Cold War Ended With A Boom? Fallout by Todd Strasser

Premise: What if the Cuban Missile Crisis had resulted in a bomb being dropped on U.S. soil? What if your house had the only bomb shelter in the whole neighborhood? What if all of your neighbors tried to get into your shelter, but you only had room and food for your family? This is the world of Fallout.

Title: Fallout
Author: Todd Strasser
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction / Science Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Content appropriate for: Grades 9-12
Format: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Three adjectives that describe this book: dark, fast-paced, intense

I was drawn to this book by both the cover (Whoa!) and the premise (Double Whoa!). Todd Strasser goes all-in with this book. He jumps right into the terror and tragedy of a nation being attacked by The Bomb and its people scrabbling to survive. His use of short chapters, alternating between this crisis and life before the bomb, keeps the story moving at a rapid pace. This novel was fascinating and completely engrossing. However...

The story fell flat in a few ways. Let's start with the characters. There aren't many of them since most of the time they are holed up in the bomb shelter. Even though there are a limited number of characters, none of them felt completely developed. Not even the central character, Scott!

Another area of concern is the recurrence of unnecessary adult moments. Although the primary youth in the novel are in sixth grade, the frequent mention of nudity, especially boys ogling breasts, requires a very mature reader. Although it's realistic that adults and children would eventually bathe and use the bathroom in front of one another, these and other graphic elements lead me to recommend the novel to only audiences in high school or older. I wish Strasser had made the protagonists older to match the use of sexuality, or had left these out entirely. They really aren't necessary for the plot.

Finally, I found one scene particularly disturbing. At one point two of the sixth grade boys discuss what it means to be a homosexual. They conclude by saying that it is simply disgusting and unnatural. I recognize that this novel is set in 1962 and that this conversation would make sense in that setting, however it makes me uncomfortable to promote this thinking in the 21st century. Again, Strasser could have just as easily left this out.

Overall, Fallout is a compelling read that is marred by too many overly sexualized moments. Readers in high school or older should find a lot to love here, though.
3.5 stars

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