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Book Review: The Compound by S.A. Bodeen (4/5). So this is what crazy billionaires do.

27 Oct

I found this book (yet again) on my book-a-day calendar in 2013. I was excited when I found an audio version of it and saw that it was written during NaNoWriMo! Well, the first draft of it was, but that means this is the brain child of a 30 day dash to the first 50,000 words. That’s so awesome.

Cover Image via

Cover Image via

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

Summary from Goodreads:

Eli and his family have lived in the underground Compound for six years. The world they knew is gone, and they’ve become accustomed to their new life. Accustomed, but not happy.

For Eli, no amount of luxury can stifle the dull routine of living in the same place, with only his two sisters, his father and mother, doing the same thing day after day after day.

As problems with their carefully planned existence threaten to destroy their sanctuary—and their sanity—Eli can’t help but wonder if he’d rather take his chances outside.

Eli’s father built the Compound to keep them safe. But are they safe—or sorry?

Wow. I was really sucked in to this one. Well, until the end. I found one thing really unbelievable there, which I’ll address later.  Other than that, I was really intrigued by this book. I thought the world Bodeen created was really detailed and I liked the small things she added in that helped me see the apocalyptic world through Eli’s eyes. This book really made me consider the value of living. If you are trapped in a compound for fifteen years with only your family and have to resort to some of the measures the Yanikakis family looked into, is life worth living?

I thought the characters were all very real except Rex. I didn’t understand is madness and it seemed a little out of left field. I know the author tried to explain it away by describing the turdunken scene, but that didn’t build the character enough for me. I still didn’t buy it. I liked Eli, and as he’s the narrator, it made me like the characters overall. I loved the fight between Lexi and Eli; I thought that was a great touch and it reminded me of myself and my brother.

Eli himself was my favorite character. I liked that he kept things from his dad when he thought he needed to, that’s very true to life of teenagers. I liked how he talked to his brother over IM and how he didn’t immediately believe that his dad had been lying to him and I really liked that he confronted his dad about it. He was forward when he needed to be and I liked that about him.

I sympathized most with the mother. She was stuck in a difficult place where she wanted to do what was best for her family and as much as she wanted to do things for herself, she couldn’t. Even when she didn’t agree with how she was being treated, she couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t relate to her pain, but I felt bad for her more than the others. Especially with how her husband treated her younger children. I don’t think I could have stood for that.

I liked Eli’s escape from the compound at the end the most. It was great to see him working with his younger brother and tricking his dad. It was cool to see him out-smarting and physically outmaneuvering a man with more paper-based intellect, but who wasn’t as well versed in real-life application.

S.A. Bodeen Image via

S.A. Bodeen
Image via

It seemed to me like the clues Eli followed were really vague and I doubted they were even actually connected. It reminded me of the scene from Men In Black where J is trying to find a clue and thinks each thing is pointing to something else. The statue is pointing to a pizza box that’s pointing to pointed lamp, etc. It was unbelievable and ultimately wrong. I expected Eli to be led down an errant path at well and when it turned out to be the right answer, I shook a metaphorical fist at the author. It seemed to be a convenient way to wrap up the book and it seemed like cheating. No me gusta.

As Eli is stuck in the compound with his family, family seems like the obvious theme to discuss here. The family was very fractioned in the compound, but as Eli says, they all have to work together to get out of it. The clues he followed relied on all of the siblings memories and knowledge. The ultimate sacrifice that their mother was willing to make of giving up her younger children for the older children was all about family. And the long-awaited reunion with Eddie and Gram was all about family. When the family finally worked together, they got out and could be together again.

Writer’s Takeaway: As I said, I thought the ending was a cheap way out for the author. I think if she’d taken more time, she could have developed a better ending. The details of the setting were so well done, but then the ending was rushed. She said in her closing authors note that she wanted to thank the NaNoWriMo staff and it made a little more sense to me. At the end of November, you sometimes need to wrap the story up quickly and get to the 50,000 mark. But the editing phase should have allowed her time to go back and add the needed pacing to the end of the book and make it more solid. I thought that was lacking.

An overall compelling and good novel that had a fatal flaw at the end. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfills Washington for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Review: The Compound by S.A. Bodeen | Book.Blog.Bake
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The Compound by S.A. Bodeen | Young Adult Controversial Titles
The Compound: S.A. Bodeen | Jen Robinson’s Book Page