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The Gadget by Paul Zindel
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The Gadget

by Paul Zindel

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The Gadget is told from the perspective of a young boy at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. The story is written in a very direct and fast paced style. Even though this is aimed at boys/tweens, the author managed to incorporate a good bit of historical detail. Although the author changed the dates and details, I really appreciated that he included the Demon Core incidents in the book. The descriptions of Trinity Site and the actual test were detailed and seemed very accurate. The plot involving spies seemed a bit half-hearted, but worked for the purposes of the story. A good choice for younger readers. ( )
  LISandKL | Jul 7, 2014 |
The Gadget By Paul Zindel and published in 2001 by Dell Laurel-Leaf. It is a Historical Fiction novel about Stephen Orr, a boy whose father works on the Manhattan Project and the choices and consequences Stephen must make. I like this book a lot. This was the first chapter book that I personally picked to read back in the fourth grade. This is a wonderful book that has a suspenseful plot, very believable characters, and an interesting point of view.
The plot in this book is a non-stop action filled excitement ride. The author kept the pace of the story building and building until it reached its climax. The author completed this task by using the ever present fear of the unknown project and the overall fear of World War Two. We can see the tension of Stephen and his father multiple times. The first time, and the most poignant is when the two finally meet. Stephen has not seen his father for a very long time and is completely eager to see his father. On the other hand, his father is worn out with the project and exhausted. The best he can offer his son is a simple handshake. This makes Stephen mad and immediately escalates the emotions between the two. The author does a great job at creating conflict at the end of the story. Stephen completely refuses to believe that his good friend Alexei is a foreign spy. We see Stephen alienated to the other camp because of his friendship with Alexei. Towards the end we see Stephen come to terms with this conflict and accept that there may be more to his friend then he thinks. Lastly, the suspense is evident all through the book as I found myself wondering if the bomb will be completed on time and if Stephen will ever agree with his father. The pinnacle of the suspense is when Stephen finds Alexei’s father communicating with the enemy. I then read on as Stephen was trying to escape from his friend and his family of spies.
The protagonist Stephen and the antagonist Alexei are described, developed, and believed in very well. In the story, Stephen starts out as a naive boy who is torn during World War II. With his mother in England and his father on a top secret mission, Stephen feels torn between a normal life and wanting to know his father. When Stephen travels to America we see that he is full of mystery as to what is happening. Stephen develops from a naive friendly boy to a war and spy savvy young man who comes to terms with what the Manhattan Project really is. This is never more evident than when Stephen finds out that Alexei, and Alexei’s families are spies. Stephen is roped in by Alexei’s family by the promise of having a pseudo father who is not always ignoring him for some big secret. We see Stephen become more aware of Alexei’s family and what they are really doing. At the end of the novel we Stephen come to the realization that his friend was a spy. This was my favorite part of the book, when we saw Stephen shoot up from a boy to a young man who had to come to terms with reality. Alexei is a completely believable spy. The author did a great job hiding his true identity until the final 30 pages of the book. Alexei is completely believable in his simple deception of Stephen. Alexei becomes friends with Stephen to find out what Stephens father knows. The author makes us believe that Alexei is an innocent loving friend by simple acts like going over to Stephen’s house for a play date. I completely believed that Alexei was good by how the author presented this character.
The author wrote this story in third person. This is interesting because when the story is in third person I, the reader, can read things and pick up on things that I might not have if it was in first person. An example of this is when Stephen accidentally walks in on his father and the secret project. The narrator then describes to us that there was this big map of places in Japan and complicated chemical drawings on the board. If this was from the point of view of Stephen we might have not seen anything. We may have just seen Stephens father racing towards him to block his view. Third person also helped me to concentrate more on the plot and be more exited in the story. During the big chase scene I read that the whole camp came alive trying to capture Alexei and his family as they were trying to kill Stephan. If this was just from one person’s point of view I might have not read the amount of excitement happening in the camp.
Wise Choices, family, and broadening ones view are all big ideas in The Gadget. Living on a top secret military base where scientists are working on a huge secret project forces Stephen to make wise choices in his daily life. He must make choices in the friends he makes, the letters he writes, and the activities he does in the camp. Family is very important in this story. Stephen must try to connect with his father while he is occupied with the project. This puts a large strain on the two of them, but to see through the war they must learn to come together. Stephen is a naive young boy who is thrown into the midst of war. At a young age he must expand his world view to that beyond the typical twelve year old perspective. Stephen must widen his view to make sure that he is mindful of the people he associates with. ( )
  cbower6 | Sep 30, 2013 |
It was a good book well at first Stephen's cousin got blown off there roof in world war two. So Stephen was moved to a camp called Los Almos, and it was a secret camp. He met a friend named Alexi, they find out that Stephen's dad is making something to win the war. They go out to where they test the thing and it's a atomic bomb. And when he gets out of that his best friend Alexi is a spy he finds out he gets run over by a train. ( )
  aparrish | Oct 9, 2008 |
This award winning author died this year. This book is about a boy's adventures living in Los Alamos while the bomb was being developed. ( )
  eduscapes | Nov 26, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440229510, Mass Market Paperback)

It's 1945, and 13-year-old Stephen has just reached the gates of the top secret military base in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He has come to join his father, a famous physicist who is working on a covert project for the Allies. Though his father is forbidden to discuss the project in any detail, Stephen can tell by his haunted eyes and shaking hands how worried he and the other scientists are. After a few weeks, Stephen finds that he cannot control his insatiable curiosity. Enlisting the help of his new friend Tilanov, Stephen devises a plan to discover the true nature of "the gadget." But when he finally learns what it is, he also realizes another startling truth--that he has trusted the wrong person with the information and not only his life, but the lives of all Americans, could be in terrible danger.

The greatest strength of The Gadget is how Paul Zindel communicates, in clear and simple prose, how terribly uncertain many of those "in the know" were about dropping the atom bomb, and the idea that no one--not even top scientists--could really predict what the outcome would be. By combining this disconcerting notion with a rapid-fire plot and an Everyman teen protagonist, young adult veteran author Zindel has created a historical fiction that reads like a thrilling action-adventure pulp novel, except, (and this is the best part)--it's all true. Curious readers will also find a World War II chronology, bibliography, and short bios of prominent figures involved in the making of the atom bomb. (Ages 11 to 14) --Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:09 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In 1945, having joined his father at Los Alamos, where he and other scientists are working on a secret project to end World War II, thirteen-year-old Stephen becomes caught in a web of secrecy and intrigue.

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