The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

In my capacity as a member of the Nominating Committee for the Young Adult Cybils, I read with great enjoyment several books from the fairly new (2006) publisher Feiwel and Friends (The Poisen Apples, Carpe Diem, and Get Well Soon).* So when I was offered an advance reader copy of one of their new YA books, I jumped at it.

The book in question is The Compound, by S.A. Bodeen (coming this spring). The Compound could be described as Anne Frank meets The Shining, but I'll resist the temptation.

Here's how it starts:

"My world ended with a bang the minute we entered the Compound and that silver door closed behind us.

The sound was brutal.


An echoing, resounding boom that slashed my nine-year old heart in two. My fists beat on the door. I bawled. The screaming left me hoarse and my feet hurt."

Eli and his family are locked into the safty of the compound his billionare father had built to save them from nuclear war. His grandmother and his twin brother didn't make it, and were left outside to face Armeggedon. Now it is six years later, and life in the compound is disintegrating. The food is not going to last--parts of the father's plan appear to have been sabotaged, and other aspects of it are so twisted that they seem the work of a mad man. And indeed Eli's father is getting stranger and stranger, and Eli begins to wonder what exactly the Compound really is, and what might exist outside it.

We pick up the narrative after the family has been living in isolation for six years, so the Anne Frank aspect of it all--the interpersonal relationships tested by claustrophobic closeness--are not the focus of the plot, although clearly Eli's character has been shaped by these unnatural circumstances, and by his grief and guilt about his twin. We see events strictly through Eli's eyes, and he is not the most empathetic, aware narrator. He isn't particularly sympathetic, either--when a first person narrator has a low opinion of himself, it can be hard for the reader to think otherwise. Faced with the crisis developing in the compound, however, he gains maturity and becomes more likable.

The crisis, a spiraling insanity (the Shinning part, although there's no supernatural element), is grippingly portrayed. There are clues from the beginning that things are very twisted, to which Bodeen keeps adding. It's a real page-turning read, even though the answers to some big questions become obvious to the reader a bit before they become obvious to Eli.

I was slightly dissatisfied by how things were resolved--it's not quite clear how insane the father really is. But this is a book I'd be happy to recommend to the young teen who like thrillers. It struck me as a book I'd recommend this to readers who liked The Shadow Children, by Margaret Peterson Haddix--similar in its plot of children trapped in mysterious circumstances.

*I'm not alone in this--see this post from Trisha over at the Ya Ya Yas.


  1. I just finished reading that book this morning.
    I am 15 years old, and my dad works for a book distribution company.
    I'm not exactly sure when the book comes out... i assume it hasn't already, since my book said it was an advanced readers copy, but i was searching for something to read on a shelf and there it was.
    It was absolutely fantastic...
    I am still all excited about it!
    I thought it was amazingly written, and as her first novel... wow that is absolutely mind blowing!
    I loved how it moved quickly, i was hooked the whole time, from the first sentence, to the very end.
    It was faced pace, but not so much that it seemed rushed,
    it got to the point, their situation, not spending to much time on pointless details, but still spending time on details... but in an intriguing way, getting you attached to the characters, and giving you clues of what was to come.
    I started reading it this morning, and i'm already done!
    It was such a page turner, and i could not put it down.

    It's one of the best books i've read in a long time.
    probably the best since... since i read House of the Scorpion.

    now i'm just excitedly rambling...
    that's how good it was.
    my advice to any other teens,
    read it.
    it is a fantastic read!

  2. I agree that this book was a real page turner! I'm getting a copy for my library--I bet it will be checked out lots.

  3. I think many teen readers will enjoy this book. Draws you in from the very beginning. Wonder about a sequel the way it ended? Would like to see that!

  4. I started reading this book this morning and it is 4 in the afternoon and I am done. This book is one of the best books I have read in a while. It keeps you into the plot the whole time. The suspense was huge and I couldnt put it down all day. I loved it, and would recommend it to anyone.

  5. I was looking for something random to read. something no one else was reading and something that sounds mysterious.That book was the compuond and now I can't put it down.

  6. I stayed up till nearly 3:00 am finishing this. I was absolutely terrified. At one point I had to get up and get a drink, and I briefly considered grabbing a kitchen knife on the way out, because the hall was dark. I loved every word of it. And, Tasha, I completely agree, the house of the scorpion was amazing!


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