Title: Life: An Exploded Diagram
Author: Mal Peet
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Concepts: wealth, poverty, class
Review: Clem Ackroyd defied the expectations of his working-class family and neighbors when he scored high enough on the "Scholarship" examination to gain entry into the elite Sir Henry Newgate School. Although he would have to survive several years of bullying and taunting from the upperclassmen, the school would make available new opportunities and avenues for success. Yet even with this education, his working-class background and upbringing in public housing would still dictate what British society at the time deemed as permissible for his social and dating life.
With her parents coming from several generations of wealth, Frankie Mortimer would certainly be considered well outside of that permissable range, but that did not stop the two of them from meeting and falling in love. Compounding the pressures from the rigid social structure, Clem's father worked as a machinery supervisor for Frankie's father. Clem and Frankie felt they had to go to any lengths to keep their budding relationship a close secret. Little did they realize the extent to which their secret maneuvering would actually put them both into grave danger.
Set against the backdrop of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, this novel weaves together a fascinating plot of love, class, and family relations. Both the detailed historical narrative and the sexual content make the novel more appropriate for young adults as compared to middle-grade readers. Well-developed characters and stunning plot twists make this work of historical fiction a memorable read.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children