Deborah Wiles‘ latest novel, Countdown, sure has been generating a ton of buzz.
Countdown is the first in what will be a trilogy of “documentary novels” by Wiles, set in the 1960s. This term, “documentary novel,” is something new to me. It describes the format of the book, which is interspersed throughout with photos, cartoons, newspaper clippings and song lyrics from this era. These snippets of history help to build the mood of the story and I assume they are also there to help younger readers, who will be unfamiliar with the political and social upheaval of that time.
Franny Chapman is eleven, and she lives in Washington D.C. The book takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and though Franny may not fully understand the situation, she feels the tension and stress around her everyday, and she has plenty of questions and opinions about it all.
One thing I wondered while reading was whether a younger reader would grasp enough of the historical complexity to fully appreciate what Wiles has accomplished, but I think that overall, the documentary elements work to give even a kid with no knowledge of this time a sense of what people were living through. I would be curious to talk to a kid reader to find out their take on the photos, song lyrics and cartoons. Kid approved? Only kids can say.
From a grown-up’s point of view, this book is complex and satisfying. Franny is a very relate-able character as a tween who feels in-between everything, and afraid of things she doesn’t understand. She is perfect in how she is fearful and feisty, she wants to be noticed and she wants her opinions to be heard. All in all, Countdown adds up to a rich, entertaining and informative reading experience. Highly recommended.
I’m pleased to be able to give away two copies of the book. This book giveaway is open to participants with a United States mailing address only (international readers may enter if they have a friend in the States who can accept their prizes by mail). Just drop off a comment below and be sure to include an email address so that I can contact you if you’re a winner.
You can visit the website for the book here, and take a look at this trailer: