The Compound by S.A. Booden
Expected Publication Date: April 29, 2008
Length: 256 pages
Obtained Via: Bought
#1 in The Compound
View at the Traffic light:
Eli and his family have lived in the underground Compound for six years. The world they knew is gone, and they’ve become accustomed to their new life. Accustomed, but not happy.
For Eli, no amount of luxury can stifle the dull routine of living in the same place, with only his two sisters, his father and mother, doing the same thing day after day after day.
As problems with their carefully planned existence threaten to destroy their sanctuary—and their sanity—Eli can’t help but wonder if he’d rather take his chances outside.
Eli’s father built the Compound to keep them safe. But are they safe—or sorry?
All right, let’s clear something up first. Most of the time, I find the goodreads summary to be beyond adequate, but I feel it’s a little lacking for this book. The basic premise is that Eli and the surviving members of his family hide in the underground bunker his rich father built in case of a nuclear war attack. As to be expected, this makes everyone a bit restless and life seems overwhelming pointless at times for the family. Eli starts looking for answers to the world that’s been built around him. I will say that I loved this book, but I think many people who look at the “dystopia” tag on goodreads and look for something filled with political corruption and intrigue will be disappointed. The story is confined mainly to Eli’s family. This is not your Hunger Games or Divergent with all these forces of society playing at once.
One of the main things I loved about The Compound was Eli’s characterization. I find that most of the Young Adult books I’ve read this year, while good, haven’t been quite what I was looking for in the characterization department. There are certainly wonderful characters in this genre, but I feel many are three-dimension while still lacking the subtlety I crave. We see Eli as a child of nine, and he is clearly different six years later. He starts out being a not-so-great brother, but ends realizing he really does love his family. What makes this believable is that we see glimpses — but only glimpses– of the ability of Eli to care for his family before his character growth. He doesn’t change in an instant, though it does happen quickly. However, it doesn’t seem out of place because it’s not something that just comes out of left field. It’s been fermenting in his character from the beginning of the novel.
This is really where this book shines. Yes, I love the characterization, but I think many readers could overlook bad characterization in this novel because of the plot. There’s always a new twist, that’s foreshadowed enough for it to make sense and yet still deliver impact. I will say my one less-positive thing about this book is that the foreshadowing is quite overt in times; sometimes the “twists” can be see coming. However, because of what those twists are(some of which are truly horrifying), its impact is not diminished.
Unfortunately, this is where this book lost its fifth star for me. Throughout most of the book, the pacing is great, but towards the end everything starts to seem rushed and the main character gets into a situation that should take a bit of time to solve, and instead more or less breezes through it. It’s a sequence of events that goes just a little too fast to make me as a reader feel there was any actual conflict.
Other Elements I Enjoyed
- The writing. It’s simple, but effective.
- The opening line, “T.S. Eliot was wrong. My world ended with a bang the minute we entered the Compound and that silver door closed behind us.” Aside from being just a really great opening, the T.S. Eliot reference was enough to hook me.
- The lack of romance. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for romance when it’s called for, but it’s nice to know that Young Adult books can be written without authors thinking it’s a necessary ingredient.
Final Impression: I thought this was an amazing book all around, with one exception in the pacing area. It’s not quite what I was expecting, but I think that’s why I loved it so much. I am now determined to read some of Bodeen’s other books. I give it a 4.5/5 stars.