ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2009; Texas Lone Star Reading List, 2009; Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award for sixth to ninth grade books, 2010-2011
This science fiction book by S.A. Bodeen is published by Feiwel and Friends, a division of Macmillan.
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The Compound is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Eli Yanakakis is the 9-year-old son of billionaire Rex Yanakakis, a man obsessed with the possibility of nuclear war. When a nuclear bomb falls on the United States, Rex brings his family into a large, furnished fallout shelter. Rex accidentally leaves behind his son Eddy, who is Eli’s twin. Eli enters the compound with his parents, his older sister, Lexie, and his younger sister, Therese.
Six years later, Eli wonders if his brother may have somehow survived the fallout outside the family compound. Life in the compound is getting more difficult. Eli’s mom, Clea, is pregnant with her fourth child in six years. The three youngest Yanakakis children are called the Supplements, and Eli has never met them. These three children live in a yellow room in the compound, but Eli avoids going near the room. Eli’s mom cares about the Supplements, but Eli does not want to get attached to them because he knows that his father intends for these children to be a food source for the older family members. Eli’s mother doesn’t trust her husband.
Rex shows Eli a special laboratory where he plans to clone a human being. Eli does not want Rex to clone members of the family in order to have a larger supply of meat. Eli gives in to his mother’s request to meet the Supplements. The children’s names are Lucas, Quinn and Cara. Eli develops a deep love for the children and tries to convince Lexie that they should stand up against their father and keep him from his plan to eventually kill the children.
Eli discovers that the Internet works in the vicinity of his father’s study, though Rex never told the rest of the family. Eli manages to access the Internet, and he communicates with his twin brother, Eddy, who is still alive outside the compound. Eli discovers that there was no nuclear fallout. Eddy had believed that his parents and siblings were dead. Rex made it appear as if all of his family, except Eddy, died in a fire when they left. Eddy tells Eli that Rex has a family history of insanity and that Eli and the rest of the family are in danger. Eddy promises to find Eli.
Eli confronts Rex about his deception, and Rex admits that he engineered his family’s imprisonment. He says he wanted to see how they would handle challenges and adversity. He arranged their food shortages in order to see if they were willing to be strong survivors even if it meant resorting to cannibalism. Eli punches his father. Rex is knocked unconscious and is taken to the compound’s infirmary. Before passing out again, Rex leaves Eli with a clue about how to open the locked door of the compound.
Clea, still pregnant, begins to bleed heavily. Eli knows that he must get his family out of the compound before she dies. He finds a blank piece of parchment hidden in the lining of Therese’s oboe case, and when he exposes the paper to ammonia fumes, he discovers a series of numbers that had been written in invisible ink. This lock combination contains over two-dozen numbers, and before Eli can commit the numbers to memory, Rex wakes up and finds Eli. Rex threatens to kill Lucas if Eli does not stop trying to escape, so Eli is forced to hand over the paper with the combination to the lock. Eli, Lexie and Therese have to work together to figure out the combination without the paper. Eli remembers a few of the numbers, and he and his sisters piece together the lengthy combination by filling in their birth dates, plus the dates of several famous nuclear explosions, such as the days when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Eli runs to type in the combination, and he escapes, but his father locks him outside of the compound.
In the woods outside the compound, Rex’s friend and accountant Phil lands a helicopter. Eli hopes that Phil will help the Yanakakis family escape from Rex, but Phil says that he intends to help Rex move his family to another underground compound located in the South Pacific. Phil opens the hatch to the compound and lets Rex out. Rex gives Phil a black box that is designed to set off charges to destroy the compound as soon as the Yanakakis family leaves the area.
Eli is angry about the plan to move his family from one compound to another, so he tackles Phil who drops the black box. Alarms begin to blare, and Phil says that only 10 minutes remain before the compound explodes. Eli goes back through the open compound door to help his mother and siblings escape the blast. Rex runs past his fleeing family and disappears into the compound to retrieve key parts of his research. Eli helps his mother out of the compound and directs all of his siblings to run away from Phil’s helicopter, not toward it. Eli watches from a distance as Phil’s helicopter flies away, and he is not sure if his father escapes the explosion with Phil. As Eli and his mother and siblings wait in the forest and wonder what to do next, another helicopter arrives. A search party has arrived to help them, and Eli’s twin, Eddy, emerges from the helicopter and hugs him.
In the weeks following their rescue, Eli’s mother gives birth to another healthy child. The FBI begins investigating Rex for abducting and torturing his family, though the FBI has not been able to locate him. Clea takes control of Rex’s software company and takes all eight of her children on an extended vacation. Eli ends the novel full of hope for his future.