Can love survive a lifetime? When working-class Clem Ackroyd falls for Frankie Mortimer, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy local landowner, he has no hope that it can. After all, the world teeters on the brink of war, and bombs could rain down any minute over the bleak English countryside - just as they did seventeen years ago as his mother, pregnant with him, tended her garden. This time, Clem may not survive. Told in cinematic style by acclaimed writer Mal Peet, this brilliant coming-of-age novel is a gripping family portrait that interweaves the stories of three generations and the terrifying crises that define them. With its urgent sense of history, sweeping emotion, and winning young narrator, Mal Peet's latest is an unforgettable, timely exploration of life during wartime. (Ages 14+)
Mal Peet manages to convince readers, just as Clem and Frankie are convinced, that the force of young love is every bit as powerful as the forces that can destroy - or preserve - the world. So is Peet's novel for adults or for teens? In the end it doesn't really matter. This novel - about the patterns of war and peace, about the forces that propel humans to wage war or to pursue reconciliation, about the impulse to create as well as destroy - will speak, like any good story, to perceptive, thoughtful readers, whatever their age. (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Sophisticated teens and adults will appreciate this subtle yet powerful exposition of the far-reaching implications of war.
There are some sharply observed scenes involving Clem and his parents, though the dialogue is written in a regional British vernacular that readers may find difficult to parse.
School Library Journal
The horrific ramifications of war are implicitly stated, but not in a heavy-handed way. Recommend this memorable novel to mature teen readers, and if you can wrest away a copy, read it yourself.
Starred Review. It is a world that demands deep examination and thought, and Peet has done a splendid job of creating it.
The Guardian (UK) Life: An Exploded Diagram is a real book, a rare treat for thoughtful readers of any age. Read it yourself. Then, if you can think of a young person with the wit to appreciate it, pass it along.
The Independent (UK)
Peet moves us effortlessly through time. His book jumps in chronology and shifts in scale: one paragraph begins with the ship Granma bound for Cuba carrying Fidel and Che, and ends with Brian Woods throwing Clem's cap on to the back of a passing lorry. And it does so with pin-sharp humour.
For thirteen days in October 1962, the world was on the brink of nuclear war. U.S. spy planes had detected what appeared to be nuclear missile sites being built on the island of Cuba, just ninety miles off the coast of Florida. Soviet ships, originally designed to carry cargo such as lumber or food, had been outfitted to transport nuclear warheads to their ally in the Caribbean.
President John F. Kennedy was caught between two groups of advisers: the Hawks, who advocated making an immediate and aggressive strike against Cuba, and the Doves, who recommended taking a less antagonistic approach. Kennedy, who was younger and less experienced than his senior advisers, chose an unpopular plan: to set up a blockade, or "quarantine," around Cuba to prevent the Soviets from importing additional nuclear weapons to the island. But how would Cuban president Fidel Castro and Soviet premier...
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