Life: An Exploded Diagram

Life: An Exploded Diagram

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by Mal Peet
     
 

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Carnegie Medalist Mal Peet ignites an epic tale of young love against the dramatic backdrop of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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

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Overview

Carnegie Medalist Mal Peet ignites an epic tale of young love against the dramatic backdrop of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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 de? ne 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Peet’s ambitious novel attempts to tie the story of two British teenagers’ ill-fated romance to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. At age 16, Clem Ackroyd, the intelligent son of working-class parents, falls hard for Frankie, the rich daughter of Clem’s father’s boss. Though the main thread involves Clem and Frankie’s increasingly frisky sexual behavior, Peet’s sweep is both parochial and vast, with attention paid to Ackroyd family genealogy and to tracing the post–WWII geopolitics that brought the U.S. and Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear annihilation. The history lessons, linking the showdown over Cuba with Clem’s urgent attempts to lose his virginity before the world is blown to smithereens, are an uneasy fit, and clarity suffers a bit from narration that hopscotches from Clem’s first-person account to a third-person voice. 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. The denouement is heartbreaking, as the young lovers finally satisfy their longing but pay a horrifically high price. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Renee Farrah Vess
Generations of Clem's family have experienced disaster. Taking place almost exclusively in England, we watch Clem's life unfold as well as stories from his family's past. We learn about the lives of his parents and grandparents, all affected by war and hardship. Clem's life takes a wild turn when he meets Frankie, the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Suddenly, all his thoughts are of her, and he happily lets them consume him. However, like the rest of family, there is something beyond his control that threatens to undo everything he's worked toward: The Cuban Missile Crisis. Fictionalized dialogue involving President John F. Kennedy and Russia's Nikita Khrushchev has generous portions of the book that serves as a countdown to a life-altering moment for Clem. A message about how war stretches through time and countries damaging more than the intended victims. This is a turbulent, raw, novel that is gritty and ties together world history, war, and family dynamics. Its darkness and underlying didactic tones will intrigue thinkers and philosophers. Reviewer: Renee Farrah Vess
Kirkus Reviews

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)

From the Publisher
Peet creates an explosive world where love is frowned upon and the past has bloody teeth and bad breath. It's a world that demands deep examination and thought, and Peet has done a splendid job of creating it.
—Booklist (starred review)

Peet's brilliant, ambitious novel bridges the years between World War II and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, but at its heart is a star-crossed affair set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Recommend this memorable novel to mature teen readers, and if you can wrest away a copy, read it yourself.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

This is mesmerizing through the sheer force and liveliness of its prose, as well as its unpredictable, inexorable plot. Peet's gift for imagery makes the novel fizz with the intensity of an adolescent's heightened perceptions-in which everything is alive, and even boredom is an all-engrossing activity. Place, period, and adolescent passion all come through with exuberant feeling and humor; Peet's subtle, literary play with narrative voice, style, and chronology make this a satisfyingly sophisticated teen novel. Outstanding.
—The Horn Book (starred review)

Sophisticated teens and adults will appreciate this subtle yet powerful exposition of the far-reaching implications of war.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Peet's brilliant, ambitious novel bridges the years between World War II and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, but at its heart is a star-crossed affair set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The titular life is that of 17-year-old Clem Ackroyd, a working-class boy living in British government-assisted housing. The object of his lust, 16-year-old Frankie Mortimer, resides in ritzy Bratton Manor. Despite their class differences, Clem and Frankie launch a torrid (and top secret) romance, engaging in some eyeball-melting make-out/groping sessions wherever and whenever possible. As the threat of nuclear annihilation grows, Peet effectively juxtaposes the tension surrounding Cuba with the increasingly sexual relationship between the lovers: "I absolutely refuse to die a virgin," bemoans Frankie at one point. Peet's immediate writing style brims with fine detail, from the "cigarette and strawberry juice" tastes of the couple's first kiss to Frankie's train compartment that "smelled of fart and smoke." While much of the narrative consists of Clem's point of view, an omniscient narrator occasionally takes readers into the minds of Frankie and several villagers, and into the respective war rooms of the U.S. and Russia. 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.—Sam Bloom, Groesbeck Branch Library, Cincinnati, OH

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763652272
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
10/11/2011
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.50(d)
Lexile:
820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Peet creates an explosive world where love is frowned upon and the past has bloody teeth and bad breath. It's a world that demands deep examination and thought, and Peet has done a splendid job of creating it.
—Booklist

Peet's brilliant, ambitious novel bridges the years between World War II and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, but at its heart is a star-crossed affair set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Recommend this memorable novel to mature teen readers, and if you can wrest away a copy, read it yourself.
—School Library Journal

This is mesmerizing through the sheer force and liveliness of its prose, as well as its unpredictable, inexorable plot. Peet's gift for imagery makes the novel fizz with the intensity of an adolescent's heightened perceptions-in which everything is alive, and even boredom is an all-engrossing activity. Place, period, and adolescent passion all come through with exuberant feeling and humor; Peet's subtle, literary play with narrative voice, style, and chronology make this a satisfyingly sophisticated teen novel. Outstanding.
—The Horn Book

Sophisticated teens and adults will appreciate this subtle yet powerful exposition of the far-reaching implications of war.
—Kirkus Reviews

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Meet the Author

Mal Peet is the much-acclaimed author of the Carnegie Medal-winning novel TAMAR, as well as three Paul Faustino novels: KEEPER, THE PENALTY, and EXPOSURE, winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He lives in Devon, England.

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Life: An Exploded Diagram 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books, if you love Tamar you'll love this!