Bodeen, acclaimed as the writer of such picture books as Elizabeti's Doll, turns out a high-wire act of a first novel, a thriller that exerts an ever-tighter grip on readers. Eli, the 15-year-old son of a billionaire techno-preneur, has spent the last six years with his family in the massive underground shelter his father has built, knowing that nuclear war has destroyed the world he knows-and killed his grandmother and his twin brother, who couldn't reach the compound in time. With nine years to go before the air outside will be safe to breathe again, the food supply shows signs of running out, but Eli's father has a solution-provided they jettison all morals and ethics. Repulsed and already suspicious, Eli begins investigating his father's claims, and sets up a family death match against a man who grows increasingly irrational and sinister but no less powerful. As far-fetched as the premise may be, Bodeen keeps Eli's actions true to life and uses clues planted fairly and in plain sight. The audience will feel the pressure closing in on them as they, like the characters, race through hairpin turns in the plot toward a breathless climax. Ages 12-up. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Compoundby S. A. Bodeen
After his parents, sisters, and he have spent years in an underground compound built by his father to protect them from a nuclear holocaust, Eli, whose twin and grandmother were left behind, discovers that his father has perpetrated a monstrous hoax.
Gr 8 Up
Following a nuclear holocaust, nine-year-old Eli and his family race into the underground compound his billionaire father created in this post-apocalyptic novel (Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends, 2008) by S.A. Bodeen. The hatch is slammed shut, but without Eli's twin and their grandmother. The family must stay underground for 15 years until the radiation levels are safe. Fast forward six years and Eli is beginning to have some doubts, as do his two sisters and mother. They have trusted their father, but now he is behaving strangely. Eli believes that his father created the entire scenario as some kind of sick hoax, right down to cloning and creating human babies, The Supplements, who might actually be needed someday as a food supply. Repulsed and frightened, Eli teams with his sisters, his mother, and The Supplements in a race to discover what is really going on, what happened that fateful night, and how to escape the powerful madman who has them trapped. Suspense galore is brought to life by Christopher Lane's masterful reading, fraught with tension, anger, and a gamut of powerful emotions. The taut, fast-moving plot will grip listeners.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY
“* A high-wire act of a first novel, a thriller that exerts an ever-tighter grip on readers. . . . The audience will feel the pressure closing in on them as they, like the characters, race through hairpin turns in the plot toward a breathless climax.” Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Debut novelist Bodeen effectively builds the claustrophobic suspense with each chapter as readers slowly discover the Compound is not the refuge it seems. Combining elements of Margaret Peterson Haddix's Running Out of Time (1995) and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go (2005), published for adults, this post-apocalyptic thriller will also pique the interest of Nancy Werlin and L.J. Adlington fans.” Booklist
“Suspenseful and riveting, this debut novel raises serious issues about what it means to survive.” Kirkus Reviews
- Feiwel & Friends
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 17 Years
Read an Excerpt
By S. A. Bodeen
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2008 S. A. Bodeen
All rights reserved.
Terese dribbled past me, switching hands as I'd taught her. A few months shy of twelve, she'd gotten taller in the last year, but still came only halfway up my chest. With her dark hair in the same braids she always had, the shrimp looked closer to ten.
Mom, Lexie, and Terese had white T-shirts and velour jogging suits in every color that particular clothing company produced. Even though Terese had plenty to choose from, she always wore purple.
Little Miss Perfect annoyed me, the way she always seemed so hell-bent on doing the right thing. Fluent in French, she also played the oboe. Hers was custom-made of the best grenadilla, African black wood. Dad brought it home from Paris when Terese was five. What other kid that age had a $10,000 oboe? I suppose I couldn't talk. Dad bought my $4,000 Getzen trumpet when I was six.
But down here my choices of people to hang out with were limited. Time wasn't.
Almost six years in the Compound. Six years.
Well over two thousand days, most of them pretty much the same. But routine tends to equal comfort, which does provide some semblance of security. My alarm went off at seven. I rose to do tai chi for a half hour. Gram had taught Eddy and me the summers we stayed with her in Hawaii. The exercise ritual made me feel closer to both of them.
Then I showered. The bathroom was dark blue marble, with a huge whirlpool tub as well as a step-in shower that could hold an entire football team. A mirror ran the length of the room and I had two sinks all to myself. I switched every other day, with no particular reason why. Guess I relished having an option. Not a lot of those underground.
Most days, I weighed myself and checked out my body in the mirror. I was six feet and still growing, one hundred eighty pounds, and my muscles were well defined. Was I vain? I don't think so. I worked hard at getting my physique to that level. The outside was a lot easier to perfect than the inside.
For obvious reasons, thoughts of Eddy invaded me most when I looked in the mirror. If he were alive, I wondered, would he have had the same build? Same hair? Looking to control some aspect of my life, I'd refused to cut my hair after I turned twelve. It fell past my shoulders. Sometimes I left it down, so I had to peer out from behind a curtain. I couldn't see anyone. Made me believe they couldn't see me either.
I pulled my hair back into a ponytail secured with bands I'd taken from Lexie. It was nice, having the same face as Eddy. I never had to struggle to picture him; I simply looked in the mirror. Some days that face was a comfort. But other days, I couldn't bear to see his face — or mine.
Every day, I dressed in jeans and a T-shirt emblazoned with Dad's company's logo, YK, the biggest computer manufacturer and software developer in the world. Early on in the Compound, Dad explained there was clothing in every size we might possibly need.
He just neglected to mention that while sizes were limitless, style selection was not. In addition to jeans and YK T-shirts, my wardrobe consisted of gray sweatpants. Certainly didn't take me long to pick something out in the morning.
In our old world, my favorite shirt was an orange-and-white-striped rugby. Eddy had one, too, but he never wore his. I loved orange so much that I practically wore out that shirt. When we arrived down here, there was one in my closet, but I outgrew it. After I told Mom it was too small, it just didn't come back from the laundry. I missed the color. If I could have had one new thing to wear, it would've been a big orange hooded sweatshirt.
My routine also included running six miles on the treadmill in the gym each afternoon. The gym was big, the type you'd see in a school or YMCA, with an extra fifty feet or so at the end for fitness machines. A rower, an elliptical machine, a treadmill, and a recumbent bike made up the cardio part, with a boatload of free weights for the strength portion. No one lifted weights except me anymore.
In the old world, and for a time in the new, Dad was obsessive about exercise. He was obsessive about a lot of things, but exercise was near the top. He told me that a powerful man should have a powerful body as well. He's the one who got me into lifting and running every day. So I was surprised when he just stopped. It wasn't a gradual thing, where he'd just skip a day and then start up again. One day he just stopped and I never saw him set foot in the gym again. I didn't ask why. I never asked why. We weren't allowed to question our father in the old world, and the same rule applied in the Compound. Anyway, nothing he could say would change our reality.
Besides, I liked having the place to myself. Most of the time. Mom used the cardio equipment when she felt up to it. And once in a while I'd break routine and shoot baskets with Terese.
I lunged, stealing the ball from her a bit too rough. I was careful not to let my hands touch her. Since that first night in the Compound I didn't ever touch anyone with my bare hands. "You have to protect it, Reese."
Terese stopped to look at me, her green eyes bright. "I have been thinking about Father."
As much as I heard my sister speak every day, I could never get used to that English accent. Or the way she called our parents Mother and Father. Like all of us, she had her own routines, one of which was to watch Mary Poppins at least once a day. She must have seen it more than a thousand times. I wished that DVD would finally wear out.
She sucked on one of her braids. "Do you hate him?"
I shot and missed.
Her eyebrows went up. "I just wondered."
The ball bounced off the wall and rolled back toward me. I retrieved it and dribbled. I ignored her, figuring she'd keep talking anyway. It was nothing new, for her to talk about Dad behind his back, then be all adoring daughter to his face.
She kept on talking. "I do, you see. I think I might hate him." She caught my pass and did a layup.
I shook my head, rebounded, shot again, then caught the ball when it dropped through the net.
Granted, I wasn't Dad's biggest fan. He ran our lives in the Compound the way he had on the outside. The only one who had ever questioned Dad's decisions was Gram. She was the one person I'd seen stand up to him. The last time Eddy and I went to Hawaii with her, we almost didn't get to go. And I wanted to go so badly. She lived in a small rural community, all locals descended from long lines of locals, where no one cared who we were. For those short weeks we spent with her every summer, we were just kids from the mainland.
At first, Dad refused. He said we should be at home going to science and math camps. But Gram marched into his office, dressed in a hibiscus-covered muumuu. She emerged a few minutes later, wide smile on her face. Dad had been close behind, a frown on his.
I could only imagine how different things would be in the Compound if Gram had made it.
For the rest of us, challenging Dad's judgment was out of the question. And I'd stopped asking him the first year whether he'd been able to make contact with anyone on the outside, and how long our supplies of water, food, and power would last. "I've planned for every contingency" was his stock reply.
And there was the way he would spend a week in bed, then all of a sudden not sleep for days. Weird. Even then, we never voiced our doubts about his leadership.
Besides, would it have changed our situation? Made things better?
So there was no point. We all knew it.
Terese bent down to tie one of her shoes. They were the same white top-of-the-line cross trainers that we all wore, which lay stacked in boxes in every size in one of the storerooms. "I believe I do hate Father. He did this to us; he made me leave my friends and my school. He makes us stay here."
Usually I just let her motormouth wear itself out, but I was in an ornery mood. "That's pretty stupid." I tossed the ball from one hand to the other. "If we weren't here, do you know where we'd be?"
"Of course I do." Terese straightened back up. "We would be home in Seattle with Eddy and Clementine."
Until that moment, I'd forgotten about Clementine, Terese's rag doll kitten. Clementine was cute, acted more like a dog than a cat. As allergic as he was, even Eddy played with Clementine until he wheezed.
"Eli, you'd be there with Cocoa." Her tone was nannyish and condescending.
Just the mention of Cocoa's name stopped my breath for a minute. My chocolate lab puppy, a constant fixture on my bed and at my side. I missed her. But I pushed away the memories. "You're being ridiculous. No one is there anymore. You know about the bombs, right?"
"Eli." Her voice got louder, but she was still matter-of-fact. "Perhaps we could find someone, perhaps others are alive. I hate Father for doing this to us."
I rolled my eyes and listened to the rant. Little Miss Perfect was losing it. I knew what the whole situation had done to me when I was nine, I couldn't imagine what adverse effects it had had on an almost six-year-old's mental state. (Actually I could, given the whole Mary Poppins thing.) Making up a scenario you could live with was easier than dealing with a reality you could not. I understood the benefits of that.
"Okay," I said.
Her eyebrows went up in sync with the corners of her mouth. "So you do believe me?"
"Of course." Among other talents, I had always been a decent liar.
Terese's shoulders drooped. "I miss home dreadfully. I wish we were there with Gram and Eddy."
"Yeah, well, wish in one hand, crap in the other, and see which fills up first." I'd also always been a stellar jerk. "Grow the hell up. Eddy's dead. Gram's dead. They're gone. Forever. Deal with it."
My sister's mouth dropped open, and then slowly closed. Her eyes narrowed. "You're not at all like Eddy."
It was definitely time for her to leave. My toes lined up slightly behind the free-throw line. Every day I shot three hundred of them. I started shooting them the first full day here. After six years, my percentage had improved to eighty-four. "You don't even remember Eddy. You were too young."
"I do so remember him." She tilted her head a bit, studying me. "He looked like you."
My follow-through was practiced and precise. "That's a little easy, don't you think?" Swoosh. "You see me every day."
Her hands were on her hips. "He wasn't at all mean like you. He was nice. And he cared more about stuff."
My first thought was to protest, but I realized it wasn't worth the breath. She was right. I got the rebound and lined up again. Tried to concentrate. Pretended she was a jeering crowd. It wasn't much of a stretch.
Terese continued to pounce. "At least he played with me. You never did. You always ignored me. You even teased him for playing with me; you said I was a baby."
There wasn't much to say in my defense. In the old world, Eddy and I were so close that I never made a point of reaching out to our sisters. The reason was simple: I didn't need them. Between school, ballet, and piano, Lexie wasn't around that much, but Terese was. Eddy always saved time for her.
The ball left my hands. The shot was good.
Terese kept up her rant. "You ignored me in here until I was ten." Her face was red, but I knew she wouldn't cry. Early on she learned, as we all did, that tears didn't help. They wouldn't bring back anything or anyone.
She held up four fingers as I jogged after the ball. "Four years, Eli. Four years you didn't even look at me."
There was a good reason for that. She reminded me too much of Eddy, the way he was kind to everyone, same as my mom. Part of me hated Terese for being so good, for being the one everyone adored.
It made me miss him more.
Despite the fact that I tended to treat Terese badly, she kept coming back for more. Maybe because I was as close as she was ever going to get to Eddy. Even so, I knew where she was coming from, missing Eddy like she did. I was sure she'd rather have him instead of me. Eddy was the kind of older brother anyone would want. He had always been the kind of brother I wanted. For nine years, he'd been the kind of brother I had. But I had screwed that up in a big way.
I chucked the ball at my sister, hard, smacking her on the butt.
"Ow!" She scowled.
"You're so mean." Her accent wavered when she got ticked off. She grabbed her ratty old Pooh from his spot by the door and left.
Alone at last.
But as I shot my free throws, I couldn't stop thinking about what my sister had said. Stupid kid could make up stories. It was definitely a coping mechanism. But my gut was wrenched. Was it the mention of Eddy? Or the fact that someone besides me admitted they thought about him on a regular basis? Even though it was just Little Miss Perfect, someone besides me believed maybe he was out there somewhere. Alive. I tried so hard not to think of him. Not to believe he might have survived.
People often talk about uncanny connections between identical twins. About twins raised separately who end up innately similar. That wasn't the case with Eddy and me, as we were always together, everything in our environment the same. We took our first steps the same day. Lost our first baby teeth within hours of each other. Both grew two inches in the same summer.
And we had our roles.
He was the leader. I let him lead, because I liked to follow. Followers were rarely accountable for their actions. In addition to leading, Eddy was also my protector. Always had been.
We were eight years old the last summer we stayed with Gram in Hawaii. One afternoon, we picnicked by a waterfall. Eddy and I lived in board shorts and rash guards that summer. Gram, smelling of White Shoulders, wore a red muumuu, her long hair loose, a pink pua flower behind one ear. She spread a dolphin print beach towel on the grass before laying out an appetizing buffet of Spam and rice, leftover kalua pork, Eddy's daily ration of Jack Link's beef jerky, which he couldn't live without, fresh mangoes, and guava juice. For dessert a small cooler held my favorite strawberry mochi ice cream balls.
We finished lunch. Eddy and I took a Frisbee and went off by ourselves. I followed Eddy up a steep hill and tossed the disk to him. The breeze from the falls pushed it back my way. I grabbed for it and missed, reaching so far that I lost my balance. As I tumbled down the hill, my back slammed into a tree. It stopped my downward progress, knocking away my breath. Arms waving, legs kicking, I struggled for air.
Eddy stood at the top of the hill. Over the rushing water he called to me, "Eli! Stop. Stop moving."
Minutes passed. My breath came back. I moved to get back up on my feet.
Again, Eddy called to me, "Eli, don't move. I'm coming."
Like a crab, he inched his way down the hill. As he came closer, his eyes narrowed at something past me. I twisted my head in order to see what he saw. The tree that had taken my breath was the only thing between me and the long, fatal drop to the rocks beneath the falls. I reached out for my brother.
Eddy pressed both his palms into my chest to calm me. "Eli, I got you, I got you." He gripped my arm and we crawled up the hill together.
At the top, relieved, I rolled over onto my back, panting. "Don't tell Gram."
Eddy was also winded. "Duh."
* * *
Being in the compound without eddy seemed to get harder every day. We didn't talk about him much. Dad had said early on that this was our life and we should move on, not keep thinking about the way things used to be. After talking to Terese that morning in the gym, remembering Eddy, all I wanted was to talk to him and pretend he could hear me. I tried to imagine our lives as they might have been. Sort of a What Would Eddy Do?
If things were normal and we were in the old world, going to high school, Eddy would probably have a million girlfriends. He'd had all the friends in grade school and I knew I was in the mix only because of him; high school wouldn't have been much different. I'd be getting dragged out on double dates with his girlfriends' friends. Knowing Eddy, he would probably insist on it.
Sometimes my thoughts took a different direction: What Would Eddy Do If Eddy Were Here?
I hit my fiftieth free throw.
Despite knowing he and Gram had perished on the outside that night six years before, I never truly felt our connection break. There was emptiness, of course. Along with a huge feeling of loss. But that feeling of connection only a twin could understand? That I still had.
Lining up my next shot, I started to release the ball.
The voice startled me even as I tried not to show it, although my lousy shot was proof enough.
Dad walked out of the shadows underneath the basket as my air ball went past him. He let it bounce off the wall before catching it, then tossed the ball from one hand to the other. "You and Terese have a nice game?"
"Huh?" That caught me off guard. Had he heard our conversation? "Um, yeah. Her game needs work, though."
Dad chuckled a bit, then tossed me the ball. "She has a grand imagination, that one."
I nodded, unsure what to say.
Walking toward the door, away from me, he paused but didn't turn around. "I'm sure you can set her straight."
"Set her straight?"
"Basketball." One hand raised in the air, the wrist flipped a bit. "Her game." And he left.
Excerpted from The Compound by S. A. Bodeen. Copyright © 2008 S. A. Bodeen. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
S.A. Bodeen is the author of The Gardener and several picture books, including Elizabeti's Doll, winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award. The Compound earned her an ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults, a Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, and a Publishers Weekly "Flying Start." Bodeen grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. Her first friends were cows, which she named after characters in books. From there she went on to be a Peace Corps volunteer in East Africa, and has lived in seven states, as well as a remote Pacific island. She adores books and is a big fan of cheese. She lives in Oregon.
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