Fallout

Todd Strasser. Candlewick, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5534-1
Strasser (Kill You Last) brings readers to the 1960s Long Island of his youth, with one crucial difference: in this story, the Cuban Missile Crisis leads Russia to bomb the U.S. The plot alternates between two threads set before and after the bomb drops; in the immediate aftermath, 11-year-old Scott, his family, and a handful of neighbors endure the increasingly difficult conditions in the subterranean bomb shelter Scott’s father built, waiting for radiation levels to fall. The format allows Strasser to have the best of both worlds. In the “before” chapters, he presents a vision of life during the Cold War that feels ripped from personal memory as Scott grows aware of racial prejudice, the prevailing “us vs. them” mentality toward Russia, and his own nascent sexuality (“You want to die without ever seeing a breast?” Scott’s snide friend Ronnie asks). Meanwhile, the “after” chapters are claustrophobic, heartbreaking, and at times ugly as civility breaks down among the few adult and children survivors. An eye-opening “what if” scenario about the human response to disaster. Ages 10–up. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Foundry Literary + Media. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/12/2013
Release date: 09/10/2013
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