In this blend of historical and scientific perspective, Fetter-Vorm explores the race between several countries to create the Atom Bomb, starting with the theoretical exploration of splitting atoms, to the realization of the theory under the Manhattan Project. Fetter-Vorm particularly focuses on the American efforts, so there is little detail from other countries involved in the race. The beginning of the novel focuses heavily on the science behind how it's possible to split an atom and what happens on a molecular level. The historical perspective is sprinkled throughout this section, but really becomes the major focus during the second half of the book. Particular attention is given to Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves as the leaders of the project. Fetter-Vorm also goes into quite a bit of detail about the dropping of Little Boy, the Uranium atom bomb, and Fat Man, the plutonium atom bomb, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, and how each of the different types of atomic bombs' explosions affected the cities and people.
Despite first appearances that this would be mainly a historical perspective, there is quite a lot of dense science included. The graphic medium definitely helps with visualizing the nuclear science of the bomb, but it’s still pretty lofty. There are times where the exposition overpowers the storytelling; more attention to historical figures and their conversations would have broken this up a bit more. Readers interested in both History and Science will devour this title, but it merits a small warning for History readers who aren't as into Science. I would have liked a little bit more about the turn of Oppenheimer - he was very enthusiastic about creating the bomb in the beginning, but the sheer force he saw at the test site, Trinity, really changed his mind. The author included several allusions to the Bhagavad Gita that Oppenheimer used to describe his reaction, which help readers understand the gravity of what the team has produced, but his role in the story almost disappears after the decision is made to drop the bombs.
There are some very realistic and slightly graphic depictions of the bodies of Japanese people as they suffer radiation poisoning, as well as the visualization of different war scenes throughout the book. With that and the need to understand the science of atomic bombs and the historical context of World War II, this book would be best suited for older high school readers who have studied the subject in their classes.
Sara's Rating: 8/10
Suitability Level: Grades 10-12
Publisher: Hill and Wang
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
ISBN: 9780809094684 (Hardcover)
Tags: Rating: 8/10, Suitability: High School, Graphic Nonfiction, War, Science, History
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