It’s 1943, and eleven-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is traveling to New Mexico to be reunited with her Papa, a brilliant mathematician who is involved in top-secret work for the military. They will live on “the Hill” where her Papa works with many other scientists on a top-secret project, “the gadget.”
Dewey is mocked by the girls on the Hill who care about makeup, clothes, and movie stars because she reads The Boy Mechanic and is always tinkering with her own projects. Another girl who is Dewey’s age, Suze Gordon, wants to fit in with the popular girls but doesn’t. She’s horrified when Dewey’s Papa has to leave on war business and Dewey comes to live with the Gordons. Suze and Dewey gradually become friends, and as Suze accepts Dewey’s fascination with all things mechanical, she begins exploring her own fascination with art.
The top-secret work on “the gadget,” is very much in the background of the story until near the end when some people fear that testing the gadget will set fire to the earth’s air. There are brief mentions of some of the well know scientists who worked on the project, but they don’t really figure in the story.
The book ends before the characters in the story know what “the gadget” has been used for, though readers who know their history will understand a brief mention of Hiroshima on the radio. In the Reader’s Supplement at the end of the book, the author explains that rather than trying to portray the deaths caused by the bomb, she has Dewey deal with the death of her father who is killed in a car accident by drunken soldier.
The book has a steady pace, and readers who become interested in Dewey’s and Suze’s lives will want to keep reading to see how their friendship develops and how they both come to appreciate and encourage the other’s unique talents.
Reading Level 4.2, range 2.9-5.4.
Of interest to girls.
Awards: Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 2007.
This review has been acquired and adapted from CleanTeenReads.com.
This review was acquired from CleanTeenReads.com on May 15, 2014 and was not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist. Nevertheless, it contains useful content information which is included here. The overall number ratings have been approximated based on this information.
3 Chr*st, 2 cr*ssake, 6 G*d, 3 g*dd*mn, J*s*s; d*mn, h*ll; bitch (meaning something difficult)
Death of President Roosevelt announced, everyone distraught, crying, Dewey’s response described; Dewey asks if Nazis shot him; Suze imagines giant toaster where people “slide into the flaming slots of death, where they would burn,” makes her think of stories coming out about Jews being killed in Germany, stories give her nightmares; Dewey’s mother dropped her down stairs when she was a baby, caused permanent damage; Suze grabs mean girl by her “Girl Scout neckerchief,” gives her hard shove, girl falls back into puddle; mean girl threatens that friend’s father will put Suze and Dewey “in the brig”; Dewey’s father killed by car full of drunk soldiers; mention that “thousands more American boys” will die if gadget doesn’t work; mention of superheroes who can’t be killed with any weapons; Dewey’s friends sent to live with someone else because of mother’s fear that “the gadget” would “set fire to the world, or at least New Mexico”; Suze’s mom admits it’s a “remote possibility” that “all the air in the world [could] catch fire,” risk of fire mentioned twice more; Dewey breaks phonograph record, expressing her grief and rage; mention of comic book showing Japanese pilot with “lots of blood gushing out of his mouth,” another shows man “beating up Nazis on a busted-up U-boat”; mention of comics being “full of blood and bravery”; mention of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s deaths; Suze dad says, “So much for Japan. It’ll only take one”; “So now we’ll have the Japs on toast”; mention of Suze’s parents arguing about war at night; Suze’s mom and Dewey see black imprints of animals killed by test; when they talk about extreme heat generated by bomb, Suze says, “It’ll melt all the Japs”; mention on radio of Hiroshima, characters in story don’t understand what happened; Reader’s Supplement: Klages notes, “We made it possible to destroy millions of people with one bomb”; Klages explains that reader knows what happened in Japan even though she ends book before characters know, says bombs killed “quarter of a million people” in Japan, “and death on that level is too large and too abstract to comprehend”; mentions that instead, readers experience Dewey’s loss of her father; mention of results of bombings; quote from book about “having the Japs on toast”; several mentions of bombing Japan.
Daughter asks mother if she’s pregnant—she’s not; Dewey sings rude song about Hitler and other Nazi leaders having only “one ball”—or less.
Mature Subject Matter:
Science, ethics, atomic bomb.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Mention of “smoke-filled room” on train where adults are “smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails”; mention of brands of cigarettes; mention of cigar boxes used to store things in; mention of woman “taking a puff of her cigarette,” stubbing it out; mention of man with pipe in his pocket, later smoking it, to his daughter, smell of his pipe is his “Daddy smell”; mention of Suze’s father drinking beer after work; mother drinks whiskey with male colleague; mention of Dewey’s dad going to party where he drank punch and got drunk; Suze’s mother smokes constantly, mentioned repeatedly; mention of Dewey’s mother being “drunk as a skunk”; mention of “comforting, familiar smokiness of [woman’s] hair”; mention of Suze’s mom drinking beer twice; mention of Dewey’s papa drinking whiskey; Suze’s parents drink toast with whiskey; mention of adults drinking cocktails at party; mention of “men smoking a lot of cigars” to celebrate.