They live in an underground nuclear shelter. Eli hates his life, but there is no escape. 15 years locked beneath the ground with his crazy father, pregnant mother, and self-involved sisters. His grandmother and twin brother didn't make it. But Eli can't help but hope. Perhaps they did survive. The situation grows desperate though when Eli realizes that they aren't going to have enough food to last fifteen years. All the animals have died. Poisoned. And his father is lying about something. Something bigger than the supplements, the children his mother bore for what...food?
Intriguing plot isn't it? If the idea of cannibalism isn't revolting enough, the idea of being stuck underground with people you cannot stand would be enough to drive anyone crazy. Eli has been driven to the point where he refuses to touch anyone. Ever. I wasn't entirely clear why this was so, but I understood the implications, the idea of disconnection. The characters, at least Eli and his father are interesting characters. Crazy, but fascinating. What would you do if you knew your father was growing children in order to eat them? Or if your father was lying to you? Purposefully sabotaging his own food supply? Would anyone do that? And what if, over years, you see that your father is slowly getting crazier and crazier. All of this really gets the reader thinking.
The problem is, once the reader is thinking, it may not take them very long to figure out where the story is going. By Chapter 3 I had developed two separate plot scenarios in my head, of where the story could be heading. 1) There was no nuclear holocaust. The father is a controlling nutjob who did this to keep his family locked away from the world in order to teach them some lesson he didn't think they could learn above. 2) It is a reality TV show and people are watching and changing the scenario as they go, forcing them to do more and more vile things in order to survive.
Sadly, it was number one, and that was all there was to it. Perhaps I have watched Blast From the Past too much, but I didn't believe there was ever a nuclear disaster. The main reason being that the author didn't show us one. About halfway through the story we get Eli's reaction to the events that led them to the compound, but still no sign of a nuclear disaster and so me being the cynic I am, didn't believe it happened. Also, there was perhaps a little too much stress in the beginning that Eli believed (because of his whole twin thing) doesn't really think his twin is dead.
Perhaps one other drawback was that by chapter one, I didn't need to look at the author bio in the back to know that it was written by a woman. For a book about a boy, there was a lot of raw emotion, heaps of it brimming over, threatening to overwhelm everyone in the compound, except no one seemed to notice. Or perhaps they did notice, but it always came off as him being a jerk. Whichever the case may be, I don't think that I ever saw Eli as a jerk, no matter how much he told me he was. Eli just felt so girly and emotional.
As far as dystopian novels go, the concept is interesting but not very original. I get that the father is crazy and controlling, but Eli didn't just raise himself, and if he did, why? His mother seems nice enough. His sisters are sharper than he is. Even the supplements understand their situation better than he does. Has Eli's disconnection from everything caused him to become stupid? The most intriguing character was that of the crazy father. I felt the story was too predictable, but I imagine this may be because I read a lot of science fiction too. Oh, and the cover is a little misleading as this story has nothing to do with manhole covers.