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 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.
About the Author
Mal Peet (1947–2015) is the acclaimed author of the Carnegie Medal–winning novel Tamar as well as theBoston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book Life: An Exploded Diagram and three Paul Faustino novels: Keeper, The Penalty, and Exposure, a winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He is also the co-author of Cloud Tea Monkeys, Mysterious Traveler, and Night Sky Dragons, all of which he wrote with his wife, Elspeth Graham.
What People are Saying About This
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the story of Clem, a working class boy, and his love affair with Frankie who is the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Despite obstacles they contrive to meet and, with the threat of the Cuban Missile crisis hanging over them, they are determined to 'go all the way'.The first section of the book is the story of Clem's mother and grandmother so it takes a while to get into Clem's story and when you do, it is interrupted by the story of Kennedy and the missile crisis.
I'm positive Mal Peet suffers from multiple personalities because I was hard pressed to realize that the first part of Life and the second part were written by the same author.I almost didn't read Life because of a bad review I read, but that would have been a grand shame, because it is one of my Top 10 of 2011, which hopefully I'll get to next week. Part One: Putting Things Together recounts Clem Ackroyd's life from his birth in 1945 through the early 1960s in England. His father, George, was in the military during World War II and didn't meet Clem until he was 3 years old. Before that, Clem grew up with his mother, Ruth, and grandmother, Win. Peet is a knowing observer, talking about Ruth and George's sexless marriage, their rise from poverty to lower middle class, their mindless, unworldy existence. As he ages Clem, he adroitly contrasts his teenage lust with his parents. Clem, a typical teenager, is a sex crazed boy in love with Frankie, daughter of the local manor owner--a couple both of whose parents would frown upon from a 'class' standpoint. But they are truly in love. Peet's cadence in this narrative shifts from totally laid back to highly energized as Clem and Frankie's passion escalates. Peet's various characters are unique, extraordinary and loveable.But, in Part Two: Blowing Things Apart, Peet abruptly shifts to the Cuban Missile Crisis, where he describes (at times tongue-in-cheek, hopefully) President Kennedy and his military advisors, Premier Khrushchev and Fidel Castro. In his Author's Note, Peet states "Clem Ackroyd is an unreliable historian", so I'm sure there's some 'Author's License' in the depiction of these world leaders. However, it is riveting. In this second part there are occasional reversions to Clem and Frankie, but few and far between.How Peet masterfully intertwines these two stories is not something I want to reveal to you. You must read it for yourself. And, if you're like me, you may be surprised, saddened and surprised, by Part Three: Picking Up the Pieces. I could not put Life: An Exploded Diagram down. I chuckled. I smiled. I frowned. My emotions ran the gamut. Do yourself a favor. If you're looking for that great end of year book, pick up Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet.
A man in his fifties reminsces about growing up in rural England, his first love, the Cuban Missile Crises.
One of my favorite books, if you love Tamar you'll love this!