Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fallout by Todd Strasser - a review

Strasser, Todd. 2013. Fallout. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
(Advance Reader Copy)

In many ways, Scott Porter, a soon-to-be sixth grader, is a carefree boy of the 1960's, palling around with his friends - Ronnie, Freak O' Nature, and Why Can't You Be Like Johnny?  But the summer of 1962, is not carefree to most of the world.  While many of his suburban neighbors have fatalist or devil-may-care attitudes, Mr. Porter is busily preparing for the nuclear war that he feels is sure to happen.  Neighbors ridicule the family as Scott's dad builds and stocks his underground bunker.

And then, in a twist of revisionist history, it happens.  The Soviet Union attacks the United States with a nuclear bomb, and the Porter's bomb shelter, designed to accommodate Mr. and Mrs. Porter, Scott, and his younger brother, Sparky, is now the only possible option for survival.

Set in the tense, crowded, and contentious atmosphere of the over-filled bunker, the story is revealed in flashbacks of neighborhood and school events leading up to the attack.  But it is not the past that matters.  As the situation grows increasingly desperate, the bunker's inhabitants, once friends and neighbors, live only for the present.  Who deserves to eat and drink, to use the sparse toilet paper, to wash, to live -- to die?  Disability, race, personal property rights all are examined in this gritty novel.  Powerful and affecting, the baseness of the human species is uncomfortably unveiled in Fallout.

"So?" Mr. McGovern demands.
Dad gathers himself up. "I said it before and I'll say it again.  Over ... my ... dead ... body."
"It won't just be your dead body -- it will  be everyone's," Mr. McGovern counters, then turns to the Shaws. "Who gave him the right to make decisions for all of us?  Because it's his bomb shelter?  I'm sorry, but I don't think that matters anymore. We're all in this together now. Are you really comfortable putting yourself in his hands?  Letting him decide how much we eat and drink?

An Author's Note, complete with photograph of his own family's underground bunker, follows the story.

For mature readers ages 10 and up.  Due on shelves in September, 2013.

A Fallout Discussion Guide.

Pair this one with Deborah Wiles', Countdown (2010, Scholastic) or Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon (Flashpoint, 2012).



Note: 
I realized that in the last month, I've reviewed  I Survived: The Japanese Tsunami, 2011, Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, City of the Dead: Galveston Hurricane, 1900, and The Superstorm, Hurricane Sandy. This was not an intentional dive into a literary world of disaster - just interesting titles that have arrived in my mailbox.  I think I'm done for a while now, while my cheery disposition is still intact. :)

1 comment:

  1. I love Todd Strasser's books, so will definitely look for this one. He always picks an interesting way to get his characters into conflicts with each other. And this plot actually reminds me of a role-playing game we used to use called "lifeboat".

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