a great champion of it, and a lot of other people agree with him.
Frankly, upon reading it, it's easy to see why. The fugue-like narrative braids three different story threads -- the American efforts to build the atomic bomb, the efforts by the Soviets to steal the designs, and the Allied attempts to keep the Germans from completing a bomb of their own -- and does so without sacrificing clarity or cohesion. It's a magnificent achievement, and one well worth praising.
A result of the narrative dexterity is that the book demands the reader's attention. I'm not the world's biggest WWII buff, but I still found that I couldn't stop reading until I'd finished Bomb. To me, that ability to draw in a reader who isn't a devotee of the topic is a hallmark of the best literary nonfiction. It's especially noteworthy that the book remains as intriguing when Robert Oppenheimer is brooding in his laboratory as it does during the commando raid on the heavy water plant in Norway. Sheinkin knows how to write action sequences, but he isn't dependent on them to keep the reader's interest -- an especially valuable skill in nonfiction, where one can't simply create an action sequence whenever one wants.
I had two possible issues with the book. One, which Nina Lindsay has covered in detail, is that, although Bomb is seriously well-researched, it's also awkwardly footnoted, and contains details that make one wonder whether they were actually present in the source material. The second is that, after reading it, I'm unsure as to how well it really fits into the Newbery age range. At best, it's for the very upper end of that range, but I think it probably slots more comfortably into the YA section. It's worth noting that Sheinkin's previous book, The Notorious Benedict Arnold, won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, and I think that the discussions for that award -- or even for the Printz -- might be a more appropriate place for Bomb to be considered.
Regardless, however, Bomb is an excellent book, and well worth reading. I'm curious to see if the Newbery committee decides to give it some love.
Published in September by Flash Point / Roaring Brook