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Life: An Exploded Diagram [Kindle Edition]

Mal Peet
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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An Ember in the Ashes
"An Ember in the Ashes"
When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.Learn more | More in Teen and Young Adult

Book Description

Can love survive a lifetime? When working-class Clem Ackroyd falls for Frankie Mortimer, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy local landowner, he has no hope that it can. After all, the world teeters on the brink of war, and bombs could rain down any minute over the bleak English countryside—just as they did seventeen years ago as his mother, pregnant with him, tended her garden. This time, Clem may not survive. Told in cinematic style by acclaimed writer Mal Peet, this brilliant coming-of-age novel is a gripping family portrait that interweaves the stories of three generations and the terrifying crises that define them. With its urgent sense of history, sweeping emotion, and winning young narrator, Mal Peet’s latest is an unforgettable, timely exploration of life during wartime.


Editorial Reviews

Review

Peet creates an explosive world where love is frowned upon and the past has bloody teeth and bad breath. It's a world that demands deep examination and thought, and Peet has done a splendid job of creating it.
—Booklist (starred review)

Peet's brilliant, ambitious novel bridges the years between World War II and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, but at its heart is a star-crossed affair set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Recommend this memorable novel to mature teen readers, and if you can wrest away a copy, read it yourself.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

This is mesmerizing through the sheer force and liveliness of its prose, as well as its unpredictable, inexorable plot. Peet's gift for imagery makes the novel fizz with the intensity of an adolescent's heightened perceptions-in which everything is alive, and even boredom is an all-engrossing activity. Place, period, and adolescent passion all come through with exuberant feeling and humor; Peet's subtle, literary play with narrative voice, style, and chronology make this a satisfyingly sophisticated teen novel. Outstanding.
—The Horn Book (starred review)

Sophisticated teens and adults will appreciate this subtle yet powerful exposition of the far-reaching implications of war.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Review

Peet creates an explosive world where love is frowned upon and the past has bloody teeth and bad breath. It's a world that demands deep examination and thought, and Peet has done a splendid job of creating it.
—Booklist (starred review)

Peet's brilliant, ambitious novel bridges the years between World War II and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, but at its heart is a star-crossed affair set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Recommend this memorable novel to mature teen readers, and if you can wrest away a copy, read it yourself.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

This is mesmerizing through the sheer force and liveliness of its prose, as well as its unpredictable, inexorable plot. Peet's gift for imagery makes the novel fizz with the intensity of an adolescent's heightened perceptions-in which everything is alive, and even boredom is an all-engrossing activity. Place, period, and adolescent passion all come through with exuberant feeling and humor; Peet's subtle, literary play with narrative voice, style, and chronology make this a satisfyingly sophisticated teen novel. Outstanding.
—The Horn Book (starred review)

Sophisticated teens and adults will appreciate this subtle yet powerful exposition of the far-reaching implications of war.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Product Details

  • File Size: 1094 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (October 11, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005O2P0NG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,476 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
(15)
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Shining Five out of Five Stars! March 2, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Mal Pete's "Life: an Exploded Diagram" is an outstanding example of what truly astounding literature should be. The storyline of this novel explains the remarkably realistic recounting of the life of Clem Ackroyd and his family's history. The story unfolds by describing the trials and tribulations of Win Little and her daughter Ruth Little as they live in the quite British town of Borstead Norfolk.

The story smoothly progresses into the main plot, which is the account of Clem Ackryod's life. Clem's lifetime is filled with as many twists and turns as that of a babbling brook flowing down a rocky mountain. His tale is filled with love and joy, but also with loss and grief. The narrative of Clem's lifetime is helplessly knotted with that of president John F. Kennedy and his battle with the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Mal Pete's style of writing features incredibly well written prose that often had an almost poetic ring to it. Along the course of the novel, Pete often goes off on historical tangents that boost the appeal of the book overall, while still retaining the flow of the story. The first thirty pages of the book are a little dry, but you just have to keep with it because it's really an amazing read.

In addition to having an amazingly good plot, this novel also teaches the reader a few good life-altering lessons. Though, unlike the lessons of other books like The Giving Tree where the didactic messages are apparent, the lessons in this book are more secretive. One of the lessons is that you should always remember the unpredictability of life, because you never know what might happen. The book likewise explains the reality of how people and their views change over their lifetimes.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Book - But NOT "Young Adult" or "Teen" August 6, 2012
By M. Lee
Format:Hardcover
This was a very strange book. Actually, no. This was a beautifully written, sharply ironic and deeply moving book - except I don't understand why it is being marketed as "Young Adult." This is the point at which I usually write "As a mother of a 13-year-old daughter who screens everything she reads ... ", and I admit that I picked up "Life: An Exploded Diagram" because Mal Peet's previous work has been so highly lauded. Also, as another reviewer mentioned, the story is set primarily against the Cuban Missile Crisis, and that is an event of some historical significance, and I was curious to see how a coming-of-age love story would work in that setting.

By page 2, however, it was quite clear to me that this book would be better grouped with others by Charles Gidley, David Nicholls - even Gabriel Garcia Marquez. With quotes from "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D.H. Lawrence and Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress", it's certainly no Stephanie Meyer (I am no fan of "Twilight"), Alison Noel or even Robert Cormier.

I'm guessing the reason for the book being thus marketed is the current temperature of the Young Adult reading market. Many adults are finding stronger appeal in the YA market, so, yeah, why not - just slap the label "YA" on a book, and you'd get middle schoolers, high schoolers, college and post-college readership.

My gripe is that no, this book is not suitable for middle schoolers or even high schoolers. This is not a "Teen" book. I can't imagine it to be of any appeal other than maybe "forbidden fruit" unless the reader is at least in his / her twenties - even though, yes, I see there is a 15-year-old reviewer here. There are more pages (300 or thereabouts out of 385) devoted to the romance between Ruth and George than Clem and Frankie's story.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From WWII to 9/11 November 30, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I loved "Tamar," so picking up "Life: An Exploded Diagram" was pretty much a no-brainer. Mal Peet's got a gift for characters and describing social situations that few contemporary authors can equal. Peet's got a wicked dry sense of humor as well.

"Life: An Exploded Diagram" spans almost sixty years, from the beginning in World War II where the protagonist, Clem Ackroyd, is born during a Nazi bombing, to the ironic end where Clem and his longtime lover meet in Manhattan on 9/11/2001.

Clem's a bright enough and artistically skilled youth to test into a scholarship for a school where only the wealthy and privileged may attend. There, he meets Francoise, the love of his life and nowhere near his social equal since his father works as a mechanic for Francoise's father.

Nevertheless, we travel through from World War II with a hair-raising stop at the Cuban Missile Crisis and on to 9/11 with the pair. The story's intense, full of some of both Britain's and the UK's history and society. Characters are beautifully drawn and events are often page-turners.

This is not a book you'd take to the beach or even to your bed for some pre-sleep reading. You'll want to think this one over and even re-read a few passages.

Rebecca Kyle, November 2011
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful prose, but just not that compelling. December 13, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a fan of YA fiction, historical fiction and literary fiction, my expectations for this book were quite high. This book has been billed as a combination of all three of those genres, and has enough starred reviews to fill the night sky. Unfortunately, it never took off for me. I found the characters to be less than compelling, and the author's mode of storytelling to be rather off-putting. This book is much more sophisticated than the usual YA novel, and in fact I really don't understand why they are calling it one. It is more of a multi generational family novel set against the events occurring from World War II through 9/11.

While the prose is often poetic, and provides many keen observations into the very nature of war and peace, it just wasn't compelling. One of my favorite passages in this book occurs pretty close to the end when our narrator states that "History is the heavy traffic that prevents us from crossing the road. We're not especially interested in what it consists of. We wait, more or less patiently, for it to pause, so that we can get to the liquor store or the laundromat or the burger bar". That is great stuff and in a way sums up my feelings about this book. The history got in the way of the love story, and the love story got in the way of the history. The story and the history never seemed to mesh for me. The pacing was odd, with historical interludes that were meant to enhance the story often killing off the momentum. This was not a book that I ever had an urge to continue reading, forcing myself to follow it through to the end.

The love story often seemed more of a lust story, with the reader given few clues to the character's actual emotions.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific mix of history and family saga
I really enjoyed this book a lot. The story is wonderful, the characters interesting and the writing great. Read more
Published 7 days ago by jazzycar
5.0 out of 5 stars A wild ride
Reading this book was like being in a car with a boy you didn't know on a dark and winding road. Eventually you start to trust him, but you are just not sure you really should. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Maddalena
3.0 out of 5 stars Life an exploded diagram
a little too jumpy from one scenario to another. would have liked more consistency. more detail in Clem's life not Cuban missile crisis.
Published 10 months ago by Robert John
3.0 out of 5 stars This book had started out fantastic.
This book had started out fantastic. Clem’s ancestry, and indirectly Frankie’s, was captivating. Their, Clem’s Grandparents and parents, story alone could have made an excellent... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Team LitPick
5.0 out of 5 stars My son absolutely loved this book
After a slow start my son was engrossed. He told me its the best book he has ever read and he has not stopped talking about it. Read more
Published on February 21, 2013 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars NOT FOR KIDS
An extremely good book, very interesting, but as per the reivew title not for kids. There are some parts that may be innapropiate for the younger crowd
Published on February 5, 2013 by RT
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
This book...was nothing like I expected. To be fair, I didn't really have any idea what it was when I started it, but still it was a surprise. It was also very very good. Read more
Published on September 24, 2012 by Samantha Boyette
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing, but easy to put down
This book came to me after sitting on my "to be read shelf" for quite some time. I had other books ahead of it, that I needed to read for more pressing reasons, but I eagerly... Read more
Published on March 29, 2012 by Meghan
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique and profound look at how a multigenerational family survives...
LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM is a unique war story narrated by Clem Ackroyd, who begins his tale with some in-depth family history. Read more
Published on January 13, 2012 by Teen Reads
4.0 out of 5 stars A review from Bookworm1858
When I received the Vine Newsletter, I browsed and didn't see anything that immediately caught my eye; so I started searching on goodreads and saw that this was historical fiction... Read more
Published on January 11, 2012 by bookworm1858
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