Ben M.’s Letter Essay #2: The Compound

Today I finished the book The Compound by S.A. Bodeen. It is a 247 page long dystopian book about Eli, the son of the very rich, very paranoid owner of the biggest technology business in the world. When there are warnings that a nuclear bomb is heading towards their area, they go to a secret bunker Eli’s father had prepared for an occasion like this. Sadly, Eli’s identical twin Eddy, and his grandmother don’t make it into the compound in time and the doors close without them. It is just Eli, his parents, and his two sisters trapped in this bunker for twenty years. The bunker is high tech and has everything you would ever want, except people, and the outdoors. S.A. Bodeen, who is the award-winning author of The Raft and The Detour, got the idea for the compound from her old high school. There, along with fire drills and lockdowns, they had nuclear attack drills. The idea of living in a post-apocalyptic world had always intrigued her. The book came out in 2008 and won Best Children’s Book of the Year. In 2013 a sequel to The Compound came out, The Fallout.


In the compound, all Eli wants is for his life to go back to the way it was before the disaster. But with Eddy, his “other half” gone, he can’t even imagine his old life without being filled with sorrow. So, Eli lives a difficult life, very cold and distant from the rest of his family members. He doesn’t want to get too attached to them like he was to Eddy. He knows that at any time something could go wrong and he could lose them as well. Without anyone else to talk to, Eli lives a boring, repetitive life. That is… until their food supply starts to run low. Even though they were originally set to have enough food for the fifteen necessary years of living in the compound, their animals mysteriously began to die, their non-perishable foods began to spoil, and Eli’s father slowly started to unravel knowing that their food supply was dwindling. However, Eli starts suspecting that they may not be as trapped in the compound as his father had let on. He wants to find out what his father is hiding but he is too afraid to confront him. So, he tries to secretly investigate to find out what his father’s true plan might be.


I noticed that the author made each chapter slowly get more suspenseful, also getting more intense leading up to the climax. Her use of suspenseful and climactic word choice increased the further you advanced in the book as well. Her word choices made you feel extremely connected to the book and its characters. It made you feel concerned and excited about Eli’s character. For example, in the middle section of the book, every chapter ended in an exciting, suspenseful way. I was very surprised when Eli’s little sister, Terese, came to talk to Eli about how she didn’t trust their father. This surprised me because Terese had been known as “Little Miss Perfect”. She always respected her father’s authority with unwavering trust. However, I wish that the author developed the relationship between Eli and his twin, Eddy more. I feel that if she had done this, the fact that Eddie was gone would have more of an affect on the reader. The author did develop the relationship, but it was in pieces throughout the novel.


One passage that really made me interested and excited was after Eli’s dad gave him a CD with music on it. The cover had started to peel and Eli removed the rest, uncovering a recent date, written in his dad’s handwriting. His father always marks the date on everything in black sharpie, which is why Eli was suspicious when he saw it. There was no way he could have downloaded the music without access to the Internet, which wasn’t available in the compound. “The label was simply a printout, made with high-quality photo paper, somehow heat sealed or laminated. Tearing it all the way off revealed a recordable CD. In black Sharpie, the name of the band was written in Dad’s handwriting: CAKE. A date followed: a very recent date. My hand slapped over my mouth.” (Page 80) It really makes you feel the surprise and disbelief that Eli felt.


Overall, I would give this book an eight out of ten. It had a multitude of suspense and description throughout, making it easy to relate to the characters and allowing you to picture yourself in their shoes. I believe that this book’s only flaw is it’s slight lack of developing relationships between the characters early on.


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4 thoughts on “Ben M.’s Letter Essay #2: The Compound

  1. Dear Benjamin,
    I really liked your letter essay. I liked how you elaborated on all aspects of the book. Like when you talked about your selected passage, I liked how detailed you were when describing the scene. I also liked how you told me how the author structures the chapters. Nice touch. One suggestion I have is to elaborate a little more on WHY you chose the passage you did so that the reader gets an even better idea of what when on in your mind.


  2. Dear Ben,
    I really enjoyed reading your letter essay. I especially liked when you mentioned that you wish the author developed the connection between Eli and Eddy a bit more, and I completely agree with that statement being someone who also recently finished it. I would suggest giving an example as to why Bodeen’s word choice made us feel connected to the character and why every chapter in the middle of the book ended with so much suspense.

  3. Dear Ben,
    Overall, I really liked your letter essay. Your summary about the book was well-written and offered a lot of insight about Eli. Something else you could have included was more of an explanation to why you chose that passage to analyze. That bit of information would give the readers an idea as to what was special about that passage, what made you choose that passage. Overall, very good job!

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