Kathryn McCary's Reviews > Countdown

Countdown by Deborah Wiles
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's review
Oct 16, 2010

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bookshelves: young-adult, graphics-novels

Described by the publisher as a "documentary novel," Countdown tells about living in America during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The matter-of-fact narrative by 11-year-old Franny Chapman is interspersed with black-and-white photos, montages of quotations and song lyrics, excerpts from Civil Defense literature, films and brochures, all from 1962. Wiles weaves in other themes from the era; this is planned as the first of a trilogy (sigh!!), so no doubt those other themes will come to prominence. At the same time, there is something eerily familiar, in today's world, about the hysteria over foreign nations, national safety, and the threat of war.

Franny's story is engaging, dealing with the personal (the nature of friendship and of family ties) as well as the national. Her voice is, however, not readily distinguishable from that of too many other first-person pre-teen/adolescent narratives. All the same, Wiles has done a creditable job of capturing for today's kids what it was like to be a kid almost 40 years ago.

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