The Compound and The Gardener by S. A. Bodeen

Bodeen's books are natural and lend themselves so easily to booktalks. If you work in a school or library, you're probably constantly looking out for books with that great premise or hook to lure potential readers in. In the summer at our library, we get more kids / teens / parents asking for recommendations, and for the guys, my first go to book is The Maze Runner, but when that's out, and it often is (yay!), The Compound and The Gardener are fine choices too.

It's been six years since Eli and his family took refuge in the compound.  Luckily his dad had the foresight to build an underground shelter before the nuclear attack. Eli lived with his parents and his two sisters, and he missed his twin brother Eddy and his grandma, who didn’t make it on time. Eli could still hear the sound of the compound door closing on them.

Being cooped up six years in one place will drive anyone crazy, even if your billionaire dad has created an almost exact replica of your old mansion. Lately things had gone for the worse. They discovered that their food supplies had been contaminated and it didn't look like it’s going to last them another nine years before they could safely go back outside. It’s odd that his father would make such an amateur mistake. His father, who'd thought of everything…

One day Eli was messing around with Eddy's laptop, which he only discovered recently when he finally had the courage to enter his brother's room.  He was sitting outside his father's office wanting to ask him about his Math homework, and suddenly Eli got an internet connection. Could there be survivors like him outside? Eli quickly signed into chat to see if anyone is online, and then he saw it: Eddy's name on chat. Shaking, he started to type, "Eddy?" and almost immediately, he got a response in caps: "WHO ARE YOU?  HOW DID YOU GET MY BROTHER'S LOGIN?" "IS THIS SOME SICK JOKE?" Before he could ask any more, he heard his father's voice: “What are you doing out here, Eli?”

Mason's mom seemed to have an irrational anger towardsTrodyn, one of the world's leading company in global warming research, and had forbidden him to apply for a summer internship there, but what did Mason find in her drawer one day?  An old Trodyn employee batch!  She's worked there before? Why didn't she say so? That was the last straw. Mason had had enough with all the family secrets. He's old enough now and deserved answers, like where was his father all these years, so he marched right up to the nursing home where his mom worked to confront her.

His mom didn't take care of old people like he had always imagined, but young teens just like him, except that they suffered major brain injuries in various accidents and basically just sat there, neither talk nor move, and stared out all day. While he's waiting for his mom to come back to explain this all, Mason took out a DVD of the only video he had of his dad and put it in the player to calm himself down. You couldn't even see his face, just his hands holding a copy of the Runaway Bunny, but it was enough to relax Mason.

"If you become a mountain climber," said the little bunny,
"I'll be a crocus in a hidden garden."...

"Where am I?" Mason turned and saw one of patients staring wide awake at him.

"If you become a crocus in a hidden garden," said his mother, 
"I will be a gardener. And I will find you."

Mason stopped the DVD and walked over, but that was it. The girl had gone back to being totally unresponsive.  Maybe he had dreamt it all, so he restarted the DVD, but when it got to the same line about the crocus, again the girl spoke, "Where am I?" As soon as the next line was uttered though, she was gone again.

Why did his father's reading wake her up?

Both of these books are thrilling pageturners. The crazy and scary premises in both of the books will draw readers in right away, and then along the way, you'll be sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to see what's going to happen next. The books are about the difficult choices you've to make in life, and it's frightening to see what people believe to be good intention and what they would do because of it. Can't wait for the author to write another novel...

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