The Compound

Gotham Children’s Books teacher Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen’s young adult novel The Compound was recently published by Feiwel & Friends. It’s about Eli, a fifteen-year-old boy trying to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.

In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly calls it, “a high-wire act of a first novel, a thriller that exerts an ever-tighter grip on readers.” It’s already a hot book for teens, having been nominated as an ALA 2009 Best Books for Young Adults and a 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.

See for yourself. Here’s how it starts:


My world ended with a bang the minute we entered the Compound and that silver door closed behind us.

The sound was brutal.


An echoing resounding boom that slashed my nine-year-old heart in two. My fists beat on the door. I bawled. The screaming left me hoarse and my feet hurt.

Through my tears, the bear and elk on my father's shirt swam together. Beneath the chamois, Dad's chest heaved. The previous forty minutes had left us out of breath. Finally my gaze focused and went beyond him, searching. I gulped down a painful sob.

Had everyone made it?

Farther down the corridor I saw my weeping mother, dressed in a burgundy robe, dark tendrils dangling from her once-careful braid. Mom clutched my six-year-old sister, Terese, a sobbing pig-tailed lump in pink flowered flannel. From one small hand dangled her beloved Winnie the Pooh.

Behind them stomped my eleven-year-old sister, Lexie,dark hair mussed, arms crossed over the front of her blue silk pajamas. Not being brother-of-the-year material, I lamost didn't care if she made it or not.

But my grandmother wasn't in sight.

"Where's Gram?" I shouted.

Dad patted my head, hard and steady, like I was a dog. He spoke slowly, in the same tone he used to explain to the household help the exact amount of starch he required in his shirts. "Eli, listen to me. There wasn't enough time. I waited as long as I could. It was imperative I get the rest of you to safety. We had to shut the door before it was too late."

The door. Always, the door.

Another look. No sign of my twin brother. He was the person I needed the most. Where was he?

My pounding heart suggested I already knew the answer. "Eddy?" His name caught in my throat, stuck tight by the panic rising up from my belly.

Dad whirled around, his tone accusing. "I thought Eddy was with you."

My head swung from side to side. Between sobs, the words barely eked out. "He went with Gram."

Dad's face clouded with indecision. Just for a moment. Had that moment lasted, it might have changed all of our futures. But Dad snapped back into control. "I still have one of you." With just six words, my childhood ended.

As did the rest of the world.


Reprinted by permission of Feiwel & Friends.  To learn more about Stephanie and her book, visit Read a recent interview with Stephanie at Publishers Weekly.