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Lights! Camera! Armageddon!

It's 1984. Laura has a chance to star in a nuclear war adventure film, right at the height of the Cold War. But with political tensions raging, Laura wonders if they may not be preparing for the real thing.

Lights! Camera! Armageddon!

BOOK REPORT for The Incredible True Story of the Making of the Eve of Destruction by Amy Brashear

Cover Story: It Is Explodin'...
Drinking Buddy: Old Enough to Kill, But Not for Votin'...
Testosterone Estrogen Level: The World in a Grave
Talky Talk: Over and Over and Over Again MAJOR SPOILER
Bonus Factors: 1980s Pop Culture, Nuclear Horror Film
Anti-Bonus Factor: Anachronisms
Bromance Status: Too Frustratin'

Cover Story: It Is Explodin'...

The mushroom cloud is a nice visual grab, but that title is a real jawbreaker. It took me a minute to realize we weren't getting a behind the scenes look at the Barry McGuire song of the same name. Also, the back cover blurb says Laura's father is an Air Force officer, but in the book he's an NCO.

The Deal:

It's 1984. The tiny town of Griffin Flat, Arkansas is chosen as the filming location of a new nuclear war movie called The Eve of Destruction. Locals are going to be extras. Sixteen-year-old Laura Ratliff wins a radio contest and gets a speaking role for her and a friend! Laura chooses her new stepbrother Terrence as her plus one. Kind of a controversial choice. Laura's mother left her airman father for Dennis, the only black guy in town. Laura is trying to make the best of the situation, but has a hard time warming up to her new blended family. Plus the movie is a period piece, set in the 1950s, and the director isn't thrilled with 'another black' in the movie.

Meanwhile, Laura's father keeps sending home cryptic messages from his base. Everything is on high alert. They keep testing the air raid sirens. Everyone seems edgy. But hey, it'll be fine, right?

Drinking Buddy: Old Enough to Kill, But Not for Votin'...

Laura is kind of trapped in a world where she has to please everyone. She tries to maintain family harmony while resenting her mother and stepfather for their adultery. She tries to like Terrence, even if they don't have much in common. She attempts to toe the line while working in the movie, while bristling under the director's not so subtle racism. She tries to befriend snooty star Astrid who treats her like she's just a dumb hick. I liked Laura, but I would have preferred she take a stand once in a while.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: The World in a Grave

Not much on the romantic angle. I thought Laura might hook up with one of her cute costars or her awkward friend Max, but nothing. Meanwhile, things are getting tense, politically. Laura hasn't heard from her father in a long time. The governor of Arkansas (some guy named Bill Clinton) shows up for the start of filming, but is suddenly whisked away by his security detail. And while Laura and the film crew are shooting at a remote location, they lose contact with the town. Just technical difficulties, I'm sure. Nothing to worry about.

Talky Talk: Over and Over and Over Again

The concept was interesting, but the book kind of stagnated in the middle. Interesting plot points, like race relations, Laura's relationship with Terrence and Max, Laura's family, and even Laura's pushy friend Dana, never really go anywhere. And then...

MAJOR SPOILER

Yeah, there's a nuclear explosion. It happens in the last third of the book, which is coming in a little late, in my opinion. Everyone is so oblivious, it's almost painfully comedic. Whoah, the special effects guys really screwed up, the whole town is gone! Hey, I just lost another tooth, what's up with that?

It was the most realistic portrayal of nuclear destruction since Whoops Apocalypse. And then the book kind of ended, what with everyone not involved in the movie being dead. Big disappointment.

Bonus Factor: 1980s Pop Culture

Like any good period piece, there are a lot of pop culture reference. War Games. Governor Clinton. Astrid being excited about being cast in a new John Hughes move, playing a girl named Sloane. The author includes a lot of literal footnotes every time she references a song, movie or other 80s phenomenon.

Bonus Factor: Nuclear Horror Film

The film in the book was supposed to be a Dr. Strangelove-esque black comedy. I prefer the true 1980s nuclear war scare films, such as The Day After, The Atomic Cafe, or the do-not-watch-alone Threads. Ah, nuclear paranoia. I remember my third grade teacher telling my class that the Russians would probably nuke St. Louis and Kansas City, and since we were between them, we'd all probably die of radiation poisoning.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Anachronisms

One of the very first letters I received from a reader pointed out that the '82 Vega I mentioned in my book wasn't a real car. Every writer makes mistakes like that. But the sheer amount of references to things that didn't exist or were not well-known in 1984 really reeked of sloppy editing. For example: SUV, got owned, tinfoil hat, jump the shark, def, and Cindy Crawford. It's called Wikipedia, people. Use it.

Bromance Status: Too Frustratin'

I wanted to like you. I did. But there were too many loose ends and odd plot choices for me to fully enjoy this.

Literary Matchmaking:

  

You want Apocalypse books?

A Matter of Days, by Amber Kizer.

The End Games, by T. Martin MIchael.

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

FTC full disclosure; I received neither money nor a coupon for a free McDLT for writing this review.

 

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.