Author: Deborah Wiles
Source: Bought it from Amazon
Award: YALSA Best Fiction Nominee for YA
Challenge: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2010
Personal Enjoyment Factor: 4.5/5
Heavens to Murgatroyd! Being twelve can be tough! Franny feels virtually invisible. Her history teacher repeatedly passes her by when it's her turn to read. Her college-aged sister leaves for a week without bothering to tell her why. And the boy-of-her-dreams down the street won't notice her if ex-friend Margie has anything to do with it. Sometimes, though, it would be nice to be invisible. Like when her Uncle Otts is trapped in World War I memories and tries to get the neighborhood kids to "fall in line" as they run away in fear of the "crazy" old man.
What puts Franny's life a notch above the usual preteen woes is that it is the year 1962, at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Air-raid drills, bomb shelter blueprints and the threat of nuclear war all occupy Franny's thoughts as she tries to compose a letter to Chairman Khrushchev pleading for peace. But despite all the fear and uncertainty that surrounds her, she still has to figure out what she wants to be for Halloween.
Countdown is a documentary novel, a first for me, but definitely not the last. I loved the format of the book with photographs, song lyrics and news headlines from 1962. What a great way to get immersed in history! This is set about ten years before I was born, but some of the pop culture woven into the story must have lingered into the seventies because it had a familiar feel for me, especially the music. I spent much of my childhood listening to my mom's 45's (and eating Chex mix, pig-in-blankets and TV dinners, but those are still popular today, right?)
Aside from the fresh approach to historical fiction, Countdown is a pleasing story that had me turning the pages until I was through. Franny is a likable character whose own experiences parallel the increasing tension of the Cold War, and I appreciated being able to look at the events of the early 60's from different angles. It seems that many of the books I've been reading lately have sequels, and this one is no exception. Countdown is actually the first of a trilogy. For the record, I will eagerly anticipate Book Two, which, according to Wiles' blog, she is currently writing. She also has an iMix on her blog of songs and clips of speeches that are highlighted in the book that you can enter to win here through July 1. Sadly, I have no iAnything to download it to. I'm so behind the times--no wonder I loved a book about the sixties.