Friday, February 5, 2016

Fallout by Todd Strasser

    • Fallout by Todd Strasser
    • Published September 10, 2013
    • Other works: Over 100 Young Adult novels, most of which are geared towards middle school aged children and none of which I've read.
      • Which begs the question: What IS the definition of "young adult" in regard to books? Middle school kids are NOT young adults by any definition of the term.
    • This is an alternate history novel.
    • It's 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis is on the horizon. The American public lives in fear of nuclear Armageddon. 
    • Eleven-year-old Scott's father decides to build a bomb shelter. 
    • In this book the Crisis is not solved peaceably and bombs drop. Suddenly the shelter meant for Scott's family of four (and their housekeeper) is overwhelmed with 2 other families forcing their way into the shelter too.
    • Warning: Some spoilers ahead!
    • This is definitely middle school level reading as I finished the book in just over an hour. The chapters are short, 3-4 pages in most cases.
    • The chapters alternate between life in the shelter and the summer leading up to the bombing.
    • The arguments among the adults in the shelter were repetitive. Scott's mom is badly injured entering the shelter (thanks to a fall caused by the other families pushing their way in) and one of the men wants her put out of the shelter because she is using resources better saved for the rest of them. Oh, and he also wants to put out the housekeeper, just because she is black. A real prince of a guy.
      • This subject keeps coming up with Scott's father always answering, "Over my dead body".
    • There are minimal supplies in the shelter, barely adequate for 4 people much less 10, so the adults continually criticize the father for this too. But there are apparently enough batteries to keep a single flashlight on AT ALL TIMES over a two-week period! 
    • The story is told from the eyes of Scott but that means certain plot points never really get explanation. For instance, the mother is so badly injured that she is practically comatose in the shelter. She eventually wakes after a couple of days but never speaks and remains in a waking vegetative state for the whole book. And in the chapters before the bombing she scoffs at the husband's bomb shelter plans but it is never explained why she is so against it.
    • When Scott visits his friend Ronnie's house Ronnie's dad gives him Dubonnet to drink and ostentatiously reads a Playboy magazine in front of him (it's 1962, remember).
      • First, except for the fact that I knew it was some sort of alcohol, I had no idea what Dubonnet is (some sort of wine, apparently) so I highly doubt any middle schoolers will know what it is either!
      • Second, Ronnie's dad is an obvious creep but he ends up in the shelter where none of this is remotely brought up or made pertinent. (Ronnie's kind of a creep too for that matter.)
    • The rule about Chekov's gun is completely ignored! This is the dramatic rule that says if a gun is mentioned in the narrative it must be fired at some point. Otherwise it shouldn't even be mentioned. 
      • Scott discovers the gun box on the shelf when he goes to grab some food the first day in the shelter. Later, in a flashback chapter, he is looking for his dad's Playboys (which creepy Ronnie says every dad has somewhere) and he finds the newly purchased gun instead.
        • And then the gun is never used. So why mention it at all? In a middle schooler's book to boot!
    • Okay, obviously it is wrong to harshly judge a book written for pre-teens when one is in her 50s. But I read a lot of young adult literature and I am a sucker for apocalyptic stories. This one had so much potential and it was disappointing.


  1. Who would you have pull the trigger and who would be the target? We already know the room and the weapon...

  2. Ha! It's not a game of Clue!

    I just think it was a red herring of a detail that ADDED NOTHING to the story. Why make a big deal of the gun in both the flashbacks and the present and then drop it? It would have made more sense for the kid to find some Playboy magazines instead of a gun.