Thirteen-year-old Christian's first funeral is his great-grandfather Will's, and he's already bewildered when he and his family are leaving the church and run into protesters who call GG Will a murderer because of his involvement in the Manhattan project.
A couple of weeks later, the school bully also taunts Christian about GG Will being a killer, prompting Christian to learn that the Manhattan project team developed the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Poulsen begins the book with three hard-hitting pages about Yuko, a survivor Christian will meet after a run of extraordinary fortune involving a school trip and a chance meeting with Yuko's granddaughter. Readers revisit her story after the bombing in pieces interspersed through the first half, which is dominated by Christian's preteen school days and lags. The second half is more successful and, despite incongruous supernatural elements, feels like the real heart of the book. Yuko's story of survival is inherently more compelling than the football game Christian's team wins against all odds or his deaf best friend, Carson, also white, who seems to serve no real purpose beyond acting as a sounding board for Christian. The bully is nothing but stereotype. There's a great story here, but it's buried in mundane fluff.
Yuko's story and her meeting with Christian are worth reading and can start the conversation with young readers about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Fiction. 12-15)