cover image Shrapnel


Robert Swindells. Transworld/Corgi (Trafalgar Square, dist.), $9.95 paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-552559-30-0

Swindells returns to the setting of Blitzed (minus the time travel) with this gripping WWII novel, as 13-year-old Gordon and his fellow schoolboys collect the shrapnel that results from antiaircraft fire during the London Blitz. The falling metal is dangerous to anyone not in a shelter and so is the emotional fallout from Gordon's discovery of a gun in the room of his older brother, Raymond. Raymond soon has Gordon convinced that they're both working for an underground organization designed to fight off an eventual Nazi occupation, and Gordon doesn't realize what he's really been drawn into until it's too late. Subplots involving school bullies, Gordon's upper-class best friend, and model airplanes move the story forward briskly, but it's Gordon's excitement and eventual guilt that really drive the story. Swindells deftly explains the atmosphere of war-torn London%E2%80%94with the air raids, rations, and state of fear%E2%80%94without bogging down the pace of the book. A slightly too-pat (though still moving) ending and an unnecessary epilogue detract a bit, but the story is still well worth reading. Ages 12%E2%80%94up. (Feb.)