Eli and his family have lived in the underground Compound for six years. The world they knew is gone, and they've become accustomed to their new life. Accustomed, but not happy. No amount of luxury can stifle the dull routine of living in the same place, with only his two sisters, only his father and mother, doing the same thing day after day after day. As problems with their carefully planned existence threaten to destroy their sanctuary—and their sanity—Eli can't help but wonder if he'd rather take his chances outside. Eli's father built the Compound to keep them safe. But are they safe—really?
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About the Author
S.A. Bodeen is the author of The Gardener and several picture books, including Elizabeti's Doll, winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award. The Compound earned her an ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults, a Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, and a Publishers Weekly "Flying Start." Bodeen grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. Her first friends were cows, which she named after characters in books. From there she went on to be a Peace Corps volunteer in East Africa, and has lived in seven states, as well as a remote Pacific island. She adores books and is a big fan of cheese. She lives in Oregon.
Read an Excerpt
I knew what had happened that night. We had been prepared. Other kids got bedtime stories about fairies and dogs. We fell asleep with visions of Weapons of Mass Destruction dancing in our heads. . .
Dad gripped my shoulders and pulled me away from the silver door, twisting me around to follow the rest of my family. What was left of it. I clung to my father’s hand. He rushed ahead of me, his hand dropping mine.
I lifted my hand to my face. It reeked of fuel.
The corridor ended. We paraded through an archway strung with twinkling white lights, then entered an enormous circular room. The place reminded me of a yurt we’d built in school, but about 80 times bigger. The curved walls were made of log beams; the same type which criss-crossed over our heads in an intricate pattern. The roundness of the room was odd yet comforting . . . Dad flicked a switch.
A plasma television dropped down from the ceiling, blank monitor glowing. “I figured we’d be in here a lot.” The blue from the television tinted Dad’s face and blonde hair in a garish way. He startled me when he threw his arms out to the side. “Cozy, yes? What do you think?”
“It’s not what I expected.” Mom’s voice was shaky.
Dad rubbed his jaw. “What did you expect?”
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
Eli believes that Mom is a strong woman and that "gentleness" should not be confused with "weakness." Is he right? What are Mom's strengths and weaknesses?
On page 95, Lexie calls Mom "lucky" because she doesn't have the same worries that most mothers do. To what extent is this true? Is this a fair statement?
On page 117, Eli asks, "What are we surviving for?" Put yourself in his place. Would you want to survive a nuclear disaster? Why or why not?
Human cloning has not yet been achieved but it would theoretically allow for the creation of a genetically identical "copy" of a person. How do you think a clone would be similar to and different from a "regular" person? Is it fair to value a clone's life less than a "regular" person's?
Eli is a dynamic character. Discuss how he changes from the start to the end of the book. Is Dad a dynamic character as well? Why or why not?
What challenges might you and your family encounter upon reentering "the real world" if you had an experience like the Yanakakis family's?
S.A. Bodeen purposefully withholds some important details at the start of the story and then slowly reveals some of these details as the story progresses. What are some of these important details? How does it affect the plot?
On page 169, Dad argues that the Supplements have grown up better than the other children because they were sheltered from so many bad things in the world. Do you agree? Why or why not?
This novel explores the relationship between proximity and closeness. Can proximity damage closeness? In what ways are the Yanakakis family members close? In what ways are they not close? How might your own family relationships change if you never saw anyone else aside from your family?
Perhaps the most disturbing element of the novel is the Supplements. Would you put your own life ahead of another's?
What does it mean to "play God?" In what ways does Rex Yanakakis try do this with the Compound? What goes wrong? Is there a lesson to be learned?
We learn that Eli never thought he was "worthy" of being touched by his family. Explain why he believed this. Why do you think people withhold things from themselves like Eli did?
In this novel, nuclear war and unlimited resources both threaten the Yanakakis family. Compare and contrast these threats. Which do you think is more frightening?
Several nations currently house nuclear weapons. What could be the consequences of harboring such weapons? Should countries be allowed to possess nuclear weapons?
On page 2, upon realizing that Eddy is above ground, Dad tells Eli, "I still have one of you." How does the meaning of this change once you read the ending? Go back and revisit some of Dad's earlier conversations with Eli. Upon rereading these conversations, does Dad say anything else that can have multiple meanings?