The Compound

The Compound

Author: S.A. Bodeen

Publication: Feiwel and Friends, 2008

Pages: 272

Overall Rating:  bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Age Category:  13+

Brief Summary: Eli and his family have been living in a luxurious underground nuclear bomb shelter for the last six year.  Life there might have been okay, but not without his twin brother, Eddy, who got left behind when the bombs went off and they had to retreat underground.  They have clothes, computers, books, and movies – anything they want.  But even in a top of the line bomb shelter things go wrong, and as the accidents begin to pile up Eli and his family realize that hunger might become a very real issue.   How far will they go to stay alive?  And has Eli father – billionaire Rex Yanakakis – really told them the truth about what happened the night the bombs went off?  Has he told them the truth about anything?

Age of Main Character: 15

What I Liked the Most: Bodeen does a great job at dropping hints.  Time and again she feeds us just enough information to let us know that there are major secrets waiting to be uncovered down the road.  And as we read she keeps tossing us more crumbs, helping us put the pieces together until the truth explodes onto the page.   Why did Eddy get left behind?  What really happened on the night the bombs fell?  Why are so many things going wrong with the food supply?  What is Eli’s dad trying to hide from everyone?  And what’s behind the yellow door?  All the secrets keep you turning the pages, impatient to discover more.

What I Liked the Least: The ending could have been more satisfying.  There’s an explosion of action near the end as Eli fights to get his family out of the Compound.  But it felt like the action was cut short.  The struggle to get out was difficult, but not as difficult as it could have been.  The story could have benefited from having a few more obstacles thrown in Eli’s path, a last second kick in the gut that almost stops him in his tracks.  It’s still okay – and the final chapter ends on a satisfyingly creepy note – but it could have been far more explosive than it was.

How Good was the Action?  This book is not very heavy on the action.  There are no chases and only a couple of minor fights.   But the tension and endless the unanswered questions keep the pages turning until the last quarter of the book, when the fights and explosions finally kick in as Eli fights to save his family.  At that point the action is decent, but, as I said above, I would have appreciated it if Bodeen had thrown a few more obstacles in Eli’s path and kicked the action up a notch or two.

How Engaging was the Story? Eli is a powerful main character.  He struggles with a deep sense of guilt over the loss of his twin brother, mixed with ambivalence towards the rest of his family.  At the beginning of the book he’s hidden himself inside a shell of routine, cutting himself off from everyone and everything around him.  He floats through life.  But over the course of the book we watch as one by one the protective layers he’s built up around himself are stripped away.  He has to question everything he’s believed in for the last six years, put aside his fears, and learn how to love his family again if he’s going to have any chance of getting them out of The Compound.

Overall Assessment: This isn’t a loud book, full of chases and explosions, but it still keeps you gripping the page and staying up way too late for your own good.  While the ending could have been better, Bodeen does a masterful job of turning up the tension as Eli races to break through the wall of lies that his father his built.  So even if fast and furious action is generally what you go for, this still might be a good book to check out.

Profanity: None

Sex: None.  There’s one brief point where we get the sense that Eli’s father wants him to have sex with his sister in order to produce more babies as supplements to their food supply, but it’s never stated directly and Eli and his sister refuse to carry out the plan.

Violence: Minimal.  There are a couple of brief fist fights, but they aren’t overly graphic.

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