It's 1962 and the world is watching as President Kennedy and Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev face off. Tensions are rising day by day, the Cuban Missile Crisis is reaching its peak. Scott's father has built an underground bomb shelter and the family is the brunt of the neighbor's jokes. That is until the air raid sirens go off and suddenly only Scott's family has somewhere safe to go. Just as Scott's dad is about to close and lock the heavy steel door, some of the neighbors grab it and try to open it back up; they are desperate to survive. But Scott's dad has only stockpiled enough for the family. There are only enough supplies for four people for two weeks, the amount of time needed for the radiation to subside enough for them to safely emerge. Finally the door is shut and locked, just as an enormous blast and blinding flash of light sweep the neighborhood. But now there are ten people in a shelter build for four. Ten people to use the resources reserved for four.
I thought this book was very well done. I like the way the author addressed some of the simple but often overlooked details of day to day life underground with limited resources. How did they use the bathroom? What did they do when toilet paper ran out? I also liked the way the chapters alternate between the time just prior to the attack and then life underground. The reader can see the contrast between the characters behavior in normal times vs their behavior under extreme duress. Strasser did an amazing job of capturing the attitudes of the day; the prejudices, the propaganda, the naivete (will hiding under your school desk REALLY protect you from a nuclear blast?) This alternate history story left me with a knot in my stomach, because really, how much safer are we today than during the Cold War scare of 1962?