Procrastination Reviews #1: The Compound by S.A. Boden

The key to successful procrastination: do something that is halfway legitimate; extra points if you can turn that something halfway legitimate into more work because of its very pseudo-legitimacy. Case in point: in order to procrastinate the three papers I have hanging over my head, I’ve read two teen novels (for my job, not for school) in the last three days, thus creating the need to blog about them so that my reading will not have been for my pleasure only; the act of blogging my reviews puts these novels firmly in the “for work” category. So, review #1.

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
Hardcover: 9780312370152, $16.95
Paperback: 9780312578602, $8.99 – due out September 2009

I have my Macmillan rep, Bob, to thank for this book. He dropped off a box of ARCs (advanced reader copies, pre-published books), with this book in it because “the paperback is coming out soon.” ARCs I can take or leave, to be honest. I find I don’t read nearly as many of them as I should, and then whenever there’s a new round of releases, I devour 10 books in 2 weeks to catch up on all the reading I should have done in ARC form 6 weeks earlier. Now, normally, I’m also not one for the inside flap, dust jacket description, whatever the little phrase is that’s supposed to give you a taste of the book. I much prefer to read the first chapter. That said, I admit to being sucked in by the mini-blurb of this book. It reads: “Eli and his family have lived in the Compound for six years. The world they know is gone. Eli’s father built the Compound to keep them safe. Now, they can’t get out. He won’t let them.” Creepy, right? It’s not boogy-man, jump in the dark sort of scary, but just twisted enough that it takes your mind a minute to put two and two together because it just doesn’t want to see it.

So what’s the basic story? Billionaire dad, mom, older son Eli, daughter Lexie, and daughter Terese all make it into the underground Compound, seconds before the world is blown apart by a nuclear war. Eli’s twin brother Eddy and the grandmother (mom’s mom) didn’t make it. Or so Dad tells them… *cue creepy foreshadowing music here* Flash forward six years: Meat ran out. Fish ran out. Flour is low and going bad. Each family member is holding it together and slowly losing it in their own unique way. Lexie’s the perfect Daddy’s girl. Terese speaks only in a British accent. Eli refuses to let anyone touch him. Dad’s gotten increasingly controlling. Mom’s gotten increasingly suspicious. They’re all beginning to suspect they’re not going to make it the number of years they have left until it will be safe for them to try the world outside. Eli begins questioning what he knows, what he thinks he knows, and what he’s been told – some things aren’t adding up. When he begins searching the Compound for clues, Eli begins uncovering secrets that shouldn’t exist. Like the internet – if there was nuclear war, how is there a wireless signal? Why has his dad written a note to his accountant, if he accountant should now be dead? Where is all the new music coming from that his dad keeps giving him? It seems not everyone on the outside was killed by that nuclear war, if there even was one. If Dad was lying about nuclear war, what else was he lying about? Why did he build the Compound? And why won’t he let them out, now that things have started to go really wrong?

Now, I mean this complimentary (I know, not a promising beginning), but one of the things I liked best about this book was once I thought I knew where it was going, it went there. My guess about what the “Supplements” really were? Dead on. My hunch about where Eli’s missing twin brother might be? Got it. I liked that. It’s satisfying. There was enough twisted about the story in general, that it wasn’t one of those, “Hell, I could have written this,” sort of feelings. It was more of a relief that the author didn’t suddenly throw some weird plot twist in for the hell of it, just to mess with your head. The twists in this story were logical, made sense to the plot, and though things wrap up well at the end, there’s a suggestion of unease under the surface that leaves you satisfied nothing’s ever quite as perfect as it seems. A solid read, with nothing too kinky that a 13 or 14-year-old couldn’t handle.

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