When Chris Larkin’s great-grandfather (GG Will) dies, the almost-14-year-old learns a few things: there was once an initiative called the Manhattan Project, GG Will was one of the scientists who worked on it, and the result was the atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima. The idea that his beloved, street-hockey playing great-grandfather had a role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people is devastating for Chris. Determined to find out exactly how GG Will was involved, and to make some kind of amends for the older man’s actions, Chris orchestrates a trip to Japan with his school’s travel club. Once there, Chris learns that his grandfather opposed the use of the technology he’d helped develop for warfare.
David A. Poulsen crams a lot of heavy soul-searching and information into this excellent novel. Chris is a thoughtful young guy, and the multi-ethnic cast is well drawn and authentic – though the anti-fat vitriol Chris aims at the novel’s overweight bully feels out of step with current editorial standards for young readers.
Through various characters, the necessity of brutality in war is a concept that is carefully considered, but no easy answers are given. This is a book designed to make young readers think as well as feel. Despite some unnecessary elements, including a scene involving skinheads, Poulsen’s latest is a great read.