In cold-war era England, Clem Ackroyd, an intelligent, handsome working class boy with a talent for drawing, falls in love with Frankie Mortimer, the rich daughter of his father's employer. Across the ocean in America, president John F. Kennedy tries to balance an imminent public relations nightmare against the possibility of World War III. As their community becomes aware of the international conflict, the young couple faces not only the threat of their parents' disapproval, but also the threat of nuclear war.
In Life: An Exploded Diagram, Mal Peet masterfully knits storylines from different times and places into one seamless plot. The character development reminded me of Khalid Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, in that the story followed the characters for their entire lives, not just focusing in on the
"important" part of their existence. This allows for the reader to relate to each of the characters, especially Clem and Frankie, and for the reader to pick up on the clever ways in which the past, present and future intertwine over the course of the story.
The mix of storytelling and narration of political events worked in a unique, interesting way. The important political happenings that affected the story were narrated by an older Clem. His interpretations of key political figures are though provoking, and spark an interest in the Cold War era.
I would recommend Life: An Exploded Diagram to teens and young adults who enjoy romance, history, and realistic fiction. Fans of Peet's Tamar or works by Khalid Hosseini will enjoy this book immensely.