Escape from Chernobyl

Andy Marino. Scholastic, $7.99 paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-338-71845-4

Alternating perspectives between three heroic young people living in Pripyat, Ukraine, Marino (the Plot to Kill Hitler series) puts a gripping fictional spin on the April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Sixteen-year-old Yuri Fomichev is a Soviet citizen interning at the plant while staying with his aunt and uncle. He’s working the night shift when reactor four explodes, and he collaborates with others to salvage the situation and attempt a rescue. His cousin, 13-year-old Alina, who seems to have OCD, is whisked away from town with her brother; eventually, the two make their way back to look for their friends, fleeing at night back to Pripyat. And 15-year-old Sofiya Kozlov, Alina’s outgoing best friend, is the daughter of one of the plant’s nuclear engineers. When party officials downplay the explosion, Sofiya’s father tells her the true magnitude of the danger, and she takes it upon herself to warn her neighbors. Highlighting eerie moments (a column of light from the destroyed reactor lances the night sky), the denial of science by political appointees, and the swift and deadly effects of radiation poisoning, Marino paints a vivid, if not always fully contextualized, picture of the catastrophe, its dangers, and a government willing to cover it all up. Ages 8–12. (Dec.)