Book: Theodore Taylor. The Bomb. Orlando: Harcourt, 1995.
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Audience: 7-12 (and up)
Read-Aloud: Da Bomb
Summary: This novel follows the story of Sorry Rinamu who lives on the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Americans liberate his island from the Japanese in 1944 and decide to use it as a nuclear weapon testing ground, promising the islanders that they can return after 2 years. Sorry and his uncle however, refuse to believe that the island will be habitable after the dropping of a bomb and strive to halt it. His uncle dies unexpectedly first though, so Sorry has to carry on his plans, but screws up his plan and ends up being caught in the blast with some other companions.
Themes: One of the biggest themes in the novel is that of nuclear weaponry and the issues and ethics that come about. Throughout the novel the dangers of the weaponry and its immense powers are frequently discussed and how it effect foreign relations as well. Another aspect of such weaponry that is discussed is the various after effects of the nuclear fallout and how unpredictable and dangerous it is to the people living on the island, and as Sorry finds out, that 2 years won’t be enough time for the deadly radiation to dissipate.
Another theme seen in the novel is that of the personal growth and adaptations that Sorry goes through in the novel. Sorry is constantly using his wits and intelligence to overcome the various problems that are thrown at him as he slowly unravels the secret of what the bomb would do to his island and uses his knowledge to try and stop it. At first he worked with his uncle to try and halt the bomb, but after his uncle dies he adapts more and becomes a self-sufficient leader who carries the torch that other follow.
Connections: This novel is a superbly written book dealing with WWII and the technological and ethical problems that came out of it. One could easily pair this highly informative and thought provoking novel with other war novels and nonfiction pieces that deal with the atomic bomb and the battles in the Pacific. Sorry’s struggle against a much stronger opponent may resonate with some students who feel smothered by the status quo and would like a chance to voice their opinion in a constructive way.
Reactions: I loved this novel and found it to be extremely informative with very detailed historical references. The descriptions were beautifully detailed as well, drawing me into the world so deeply that I just read the novel straight through. I would highly recommend this book to anybody looking for interesting atomic novels.
Reception: One reviewer at epinions.com said that, “I thought this was one of the best books I have ever read. It was interesting to hear what was going on at the time. I think that the Americans should have done it far away from civilization somewhere else so that people didn’t have to move far away to different places like the Bikinians. I liked the style of the author’s writing a lot. I now feel sorry for a lot of the people who lived on Bikini.”
Another reviewer at publishersweekly.com said that, “Little do they know that the same government that has liberated them from the hated Japanese will shatter the peace forever, convincing them to vacate their idyllic residence, placing them in the media’s invasive, insensitive spotlight and rendering their homeland uninhabitable. Three very real and likable characters-a courageous 14-year-old boy; his outspoken uncle, who after years away returns to the island with insight into modern society; and the island’s perceptive schoolteacher-underscore the tragedy. A haunting, soundly researched work.”