Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet, Candlewick, 2011, 416 pp, ISBN: 076365227X
- Several generations of loveless (or at least romance-less) marriages
- Star-crossed young lovers
- The Cuban Missile Crisis
- Our world on the brink of destruction
- A look at the role both politics and religion play in the end of the world
- Some pretty life-changing explosions
Oh, what to say about Life: An Exploded Diagram...
It has received all kinds of glowing reviews.
It bested Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls in the first round of the BOB.
Author Mal Peet excelled in revealing a very specific world through the use of the characters' dialect. One example: "You put that ole coat on, if yer gorn out. There's a wind'd cut yer jacksy in half."
As I read, I was struck repeatedly with the thought, "Wow. This man can write." There are tons of writers who can tell a good story, but Mal Peet has a particularly affecting way with words.
All things considered, I can appreciate Life: An Exploded Diagram.
But did I really enjoy reading Life? That's a different story. My major issue is that I sincerely feel that this is an adult novel. The vast majority of the characters are adults. The narrator is an adult, reflecting back on a certain period in his teen years. The issues and themes that many of the adults dealt with felt completely out of place in a YA novel. When the story focused in on Clem and Frankie's teenage forbidden love, it felt a little more YA, but then the ending wandered back into adult territory again.
And does the YA/Adult distinction matter so much? Perhaps not. But. It just won a round in the Battle of the Kids' Books. And this is not a book I would hand to most kids.
The overall mood of the story felt gloomy to me. Every scene I envisioned was brown, gray, and dreary. I found myself looking forward to the scenes with the different political leaders during the Cuban Missile Crisis because those were the only passages that hinted at any action. And because I thought Peet's sense of humor really came through as he described different conversations and reflections that were had by Kennedy, Castro, and Kruschhev.
And the end. What in the world happened there? Bizarre.
If you've read Life: An Exploded Diagram, I would love to talk to you about it. Please leave a comment and let me know!
I would recommend Life to mature readers who appreciate adult, literary fiction or historical fiction.