Life by Mal Peet
An Exploded Diagram

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Can love survive a lifetime? When working-class Clem Ackroyd falls for Frankie Mortimer, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy local landowner, he has no hope that it can. After all, the world teeters on the brink of war, and bombs could rain down any minute over the bleak English countryside—just as they did seventeen years ago as his mother, pregnant with him, tended her garden. This time, Clem may not survive. Told in cinematic style by acclaimed writer Mal Peet, this brilliant coming-of-age novel is a gripping family portrait that interweaves the stories of three generations and the terrifying crises that define them. With its urgent sense of history, sweeping emotion, and winning young narrator, Mal Peet’s latest is an unforgettable, timely exploration of life during wartime.

About Mal Peet

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MAL PEET grew up in Norfolk, England, where he says the only worthwhile pastimes were reading books and playing soccer. These are still his main interests. Of KEEPER, his first novel for young adults, he says, "Many soccer stories seem to get stuck in the mud like a heavy ball on a wet Saturday afternoon, but there's no reason why they can't shift into a different and magical dimension. KEEPER is about soccer, of course, but it's also about the supernatural, about relationships and loneliness, about believing in yourself-and about having something you would do your utmost to protect and defend." Mal Peet now lives in Devon, England.
Published October 11, 2011 by Candlewick. 400 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Travel, War, Literature & Fiction, Romance, History. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Life

Kirkus Reviews

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A coming-of-age story framed by some of the most terrifying events of the last 60 years, from World War II to 9/11.

Sep 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Life: An Exploded Diagram

The Guardian

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Since 2003, Mal Peet has been quietly (too quietly, it might be argued) producing many of the finest books in young adult literature.

Jun 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Life: An Exploded Diagram

Publishers Weekly

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Though the main thread involves Clem and Frankie’s increasingly frisky sexual behavior, Peet’s sweep is both parochial and vast, with attention paid to Ackroyd family genealogy and to tracing the post–WWII geopolitics that brought the U.S. and Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

Sep 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Life: An Exploded Diagram

Open Letters Monthly

And I have a corollary theory that if a book has a dog as one of the main characters, whether it’s a novel or nonfiction, by the end of the book that dog will die.

Aug 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Life: An Exploded Diagram

Teen Reads

LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM is a unique war story narrated by Clem Ackroyd, who begins his tale with some in-depth family history.

Nov 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Life: An Exploded Diagram

We Love This Book

His thoughts are interweaved with descriptions of family history, setting the scene of his life on a council estate and painting vivid pictures of his parents and grandmother, complete with local dialect.

Feb 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Life: An Exploded Diagram

Bookmarks Magazine

Meg Rosoff Independent (UK) 4 of 5 Stars "A big welcome therefore to Mal Peet's inelegantly titled but absorbing novel Life: An Exploded Diagram .

Sep 07 2012 | Read Full Review of Life: An Exploded Diagram

The Booksellers New Zealand blog

If I’m honest, I wasn’t initially attracted to the book when it came out (2011) because the plot features the Cuban Missile Crisis and I just thought, “boring.” I’ve got a problem with making untrue snap decisions about books.

Aug 07 2012 | Read Full Review of Life: An Exploded Diagram

WAPL Teens

From Clem's grandfather's death in World War I to Clem's own sudden and early birth brought on by the shock of an RAF Spitfire shooting up his grandmother's chimney in 1945 to the unexpected finale of Clem and Frankie's story in September of 2011, this is an unsual, moving, intricately written di...

Mar 28 2012 | Read Full Review of Life: An Exploded Diagram


Clem Ackroyd lives with his parents and grandmother in a claustrophobic home too small to accommodate their larger-than-life characters in the bleak Norlfolk countryside.

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