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LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM by Mal Peet Kirkus Star

LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM

By Mal Peet

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5227-2
Publisher: Candlewick

A coming-of-age story framed by some of the most terrifying events of the last 60 years, from World War II to 9/11.

Peet achieves what few writers for young adults have: a bold venture that spans generations against a backdrop of war and global politics and their effect on individual lives, while describing minute facets of those lives in intimate, cinematic detail. Clem came unexpectedly into the world, a “wartime mishap,” whose premature birth was brought on by a German air raid over rural England. A smart, working-class boy with a talent for drawing, Clem attends school on scholarship. In defiance of the local prohibition against “getting Above Yerself,” Clem falls in love with Frankie, the daughter of a wealthy man bent on bulldozing his land into a prairie. In delicious and often humorous meanderings through time and place, the author adroitly intertwines the brinkmanship of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis with the teenagers’ secret romance. His narrative glides easily from Clem’s first-person retrospective to third-person storytelling from several points of view, including Kennedy’s and Krushchev’s.

Sophisticated teens and adults will appreciate this subtle yet powerful exposition of the far-reaching implications of war. (Fiction. 14 & up)