FALL-OUT by Gudrun Pausewang


Age Range: 12 - 15
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 First published in Germany following the Chernobyl disaster, this tale of a teenager robbed of her childhood by a nuclear accident comes down hard on the human tendency to deny reality. Acting on garbled reports of an accident at the nearby Grafenrheinfeld power plant, Janna, 14, snatches her small brother Uli and joins what becomes a panic-stricken flight out of town. Separated from her parents and the rest of her family, she sees Uli run down by a reckless motorist, then wanders in shock through deadly wind and rain, before being taken to a temporary hospital. There she stays, losing her hair and some weight, until she is judged well enough to be released into the care of an aunt. Janna has become a ``hibakusha'' (a Japanese term applied to Hiroshima survivors), a statistic and social problem, regarded with both pity and fear. As she sees those around her shifting responsibility for the incident and stubbornly clinging to an illusion of normality, her numbness turns to anger. By the end, she has become a witness, her hairlessness a badge of defiance. Pausewang writes with some passion, although the stilted translation and unfamiliar place names--not to mention a bleak view of human nature--may distance some readers from the tragedy she describes. Karen Hesse's Phoenix Rising (1994) explores similar moral issues more convincingly. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-670-86104-9
Page count: 172pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1995


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