This science fiction book by S.A. Bodeen is published by Feiwel and Friends, a division of Macmillan.
The Compound is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Eli Yanakakis is the 9-year-old son of billionaire Rex Yanakakis, a man obsessed with the possibility of nuclear war. When a nuclear bomb falls on the United States, Rex brings his family into a large, furnished fallout shelter. Rex accidentally leaves behind his son Eddy, who is Eli's twin. Eli enters the compound with his parents, his older sister, Lexie, and his younger sister, Therese.
Six years later, Eli wonders if his brother may have somehow survived the fallout outside the family compound. Life in the compound is getting more difficult. Eli's mom, Clea, is pregnant with her fourth child in six years. The three youngest Yanakakis children are called the Supplements, and Eli has never met them. These three children live in a yellow room in the compound, but Eli avoids going near the room. Eli's mom cares about the Supplements, but Eli does not want to get attached to them because he knows that his father intends for these children to be a food source for the older family members. Eli's mother doesn't trust her husband.
Rex shows Eli a special laboratory where he plans to clone a human being. Eli does not want Rex to clone members of the family in order to have a larger supply of meat. Eli gives in to his mother's request to meet the Supplements. The children's names are Lucas, Quinn and Cara. Eli develops a deep love for the children and tries to convince Lexie that they should stand up against their father and keep him from his plan to eventually kill the children.
Eli discovers that the Internet works in the vicinity of his father's study, though Rex never told the rest of the family. Eli manages to access the Internet, and he communicates with his twin brother, Eddy, who is still alive outside the compound. Eli discovers that there was no nuclear fallout. Eddy had believed that his parents and siblings were dead. Rex made it appear as if all of his family, except Eddy, died in a fire when they left. Eddy tells Eli that Rex has a family history of insanity and that Eli and the rest of the family are in danger. Eddy promises to find Eli.
Eli confronts Rex about his deception, and Rex admits that he engineered his family's imprisonment. He says he wanted to see how they would handle challenges and adversity. He arranged their food shortages in order to see if they were willing to be strong survivors even if it meant resorting to cannibalism. Eli punches his father. Rex is knocked unconscious and is taken to the compound's infirmary. Before passing out again, Rex leaves Eli with a clue about how to open the locked door of the compound.
Clea, still pregnant, begins to bleed heavily. Eli knows that he must get his family out of the compound before she dies. He finds a blank piece of parchment hidden in the lining of Therese's oboe case, and when he exposes the paper to ammonia fumes, he discovers a series of numbers that had been written in invisible ink. This lock combination contains over two-dozen numbers, and before Eli can commit the numbers to memory, Rex wakes up and finds Eli. Rex threatens to kill Lucas if Eli does not stop trying to escape, so Eli is forced to hand over the paper with the combination to the lock. Eli, Lexie and Therese have to work together to figure out the combination without the paper. Eli remembers a few of the numbers, and he and his sisters piece together the lengthy combination by filling in their birth dates, plus the dates of several famous nuclear explosions, such as the days when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Eli runs to type in the combination, and he escapes, but his father locks him outside of the compound.
In the woods outside the compound, Rex's friend and accountant Phil lands a helicopter. Eli hopes that Phil will help the Yanakakis family escape from Rex, but Phil says that he intends to help Rex move his family to another underground compound located in the South Pacific. Phil opens the hatch to the compound and lets Rex out. Rex gives Phil a black box that is designed to set off charges to destroy the compound as soon as the Yanakakis family leaves the area.
Eli is angry about the plan to move his family from one compound to another, so he tackles Phil who drops the black box. Alarms begin to blare, and Phil says that only 10 minutes remain before the compound explodes. Eli goes back through the open compound door to help his mother and siblings escape the blast. Rex runs past his fleeing family and disappears into the compound to retrieve key parts of his research. Eli helps his mother out of the compound and directs all of his siblings to run away from Phil's helicopter, not toward it. Eli watches from a distance as Phil's helicopter flies away, and he is not sure if his father escapes the explosion with Phil. As Eli and his mother and siblings wait in the forest and wonder what to do next, another helicopter arrives. A search party has arrived to help them, and Eli's twin, Eddy, emerges from the helicopter and hugs him.
In the weeks following their rescue, Eli's mother gives birth to another healthy child. The FBI begins investigating Rex for abducting and torturing his family, though the FBI has not been able to locate him. Clea takes control of Rex's software company and takes all eight of her children on an extended vacation. Eli ends the novel full of hope for his future.
The compound contains a chapel that features a golden cross. Eli recalls going to a Methodist church almost every Sunday before entering the compound. Eli says he learned many Bible verses. Rex tithed generously to the church, and Eli says their pastor was always glad to see the family, partly because of these donations. Inside the compound, Rex routinely delivers a small sermon to his family on Sundays, while his wife reads Bible verses and his oldest daughter plays the organ. After a few years, Rex abruptly stops holding church services without giving an explanation. Eli looks through his father's Bible.
Eli believes that his family has become godless, especially after he realizes the horror of his father's plan for the Supplements. When Eli first discovers what he thinks is the code to unlock the compound door, he prays that the piece of paper will contain the correct combination. He thinks about how he hopes that God is listening to him. Later, when Eli has figured out the door's code and unlocks it, he thanks God out loud.
Eli tells his father that cloning a human being goes against nature, and he tells Lexie that cloning is like playing God.
Rex insists that he has to rush to get his family to safety in the compound. He is content to have saved three of his four children and does not leave the safety of the compound to look for Eddy. In the compound, Rex has recreated his children's favorite objects and furnishings. For Eli, the opulent surroundings do not make up for the loss of his twin.
The children's near-perfect obedience is contrasted with the lack of obvious discipline in their lives. Before they entered the compound, Eli recalls that his father never took the time to discipline his children. When Eli misbehaved, Rex would tell him to go outside for some fresh air. Eli was known for small acts of mischief as a child, but he never openly defied his father. Eli's mother, Clea, is not said to have corrected or punished her children for wrongdoing. The children seem somewhat fearful of their father, but no examples are given about why they respect his commands to such an extreme degree.
At one point during their stay in the compound, Rex decides that the older children should drink some of their pregnant mother's breast milk. Rex takes milk from an electric breast pump and puts it in the kids' drinks without their knowledge.
Rex threatens to strangle his younger son Lucas unless Eli abandons his mission to unlock the compound.
Eli is comforted by his mother's presence, and he loves her, but he avoids talking with her or touching her. Eli is displeased with his current life underground, and he has developed an antisocial persona that not even his mother can soften.
Clea misses Eddy and keeps his empty room free of dust. She loves the Supplements, yet she originally agreed to give birth to them for the purpose of raising them as meat.
Eli stands up to his father and becomes a leader in his family. He decides to do what is right, regardless of his circumstances.
Other belief systems
Eli thinks of a quote by atomic bomb inventor J. Robert Oppenheimer, where Oppenheimer paraphrases a line from the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu text.
Rex Yanakakis does not openly subscribe to any particular non-Christian belief system, but he views himself as a higher power. Rex's friend Phil says that Rex enjoys manipulating people just to see how far they will bend their own morals and beliefs in order to win his favor. Rex seems to idolize a survivalist philosophy, and he is interested in seeing whether his family will be willing to accept cannibalism and human cloning in order to survive. Rex didn't originally intend to practice cannibalism, but he hoped that his older children would be strong enough to agree to the practice. Through email, Eli's brother Eddy blames Rex's extreme behaviors on insanity, but Clea says that her husband is perfectly lucid and rational.
Clea Yanakakis has a very subservient attitude toward her husband. She does not protest any of Rex's actions or behaviors until it seems as if he truly means to eventually kill and eat her youngest three children, the Supplements. Clea tells Eli that she always followed Rex and went along with his ideas because she was happy to be connected to a man who was wealthy. Clea wants to ensure the comfort and security of her children, so she continues to follow her husband, who seems to be providing this comfort and security, even when he is actually willing to harm their children psychologically, emotionally and physically.
The characters occasionally use words such as h---bent, frickin', h---, p-ssed, screw you, and a--. God's name is taken in vain a few times with oh my.
When Rex admits that he moved his family to the compound just to see how they would react to an extreme situation, his pregnant wife, Clea, begins to hit him. When Rex pushes Clea away, Eli punches Rex. Blood flies from Rex's broken nose, and he falls to the ground, which knocks him unconscious. Eli begins to strangle his unconscious father, but his sister Lexie stops him.
When Eli unlocks the compound door, Rex discovers him and tries to yank him back down into the compound. Eli kicks Rex in the face, which results in more blood and swelling.
Eli's mother has been pregnant for the majority of their stay in the compound, and Eli comments about the crassness of his father breeding new children to be a food source for his existing children.
ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2009; Texas Lone Star Reading List, 2009; Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award for sixth to ninth grade books, 2010-2011
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- How do different members of the Yanakakis family react to losing Eddy?
Does Rex's reaction seem appropriate?
What consoles Lexie after her younger brother is lost?
How does Eli say he would have felt if Lexie had not made it to the compound?
How would you describe the sibling relationships in the Yanakakis family?
How does Eli's attitude toward Therese and Lexie change over time?
- What does Therese say about the way Eli treats her in comparison to the way Eddy treated her?
What does Eli admire about Eddy?
How did Eddy treat his classmates?
How does Eli contrast his own past behavior with Eddy's?
- What does Eli say he envies about the characters in the book On the Beach?
What does Eli believe about the value of life?
- Does Rex love his children equally?
What purpose does Rex have in mind for his younger children, whom he calls the Supplements?
In the Bible, Mathew 19:19 says that you should love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
What goes wrong when Rex tries to teach his older children to care for themselves at the expense of others?
Literary references: The first line of the book refers to T.S. Eliot and his poem "The Hollow Men." Eli receives a copy of the post-apocalyptic book On the Beach by Nevil Shute.
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