Book Review: White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages

White Sands

It’s such a pleasure to read a sequel that lives up to and possibly even surpasses the original. White Sands, Red Menace, Ellen Klages’s follow up to The Green Glass Sea is a wonderful continuation of Suze Gordon and Dewey Kerrigan’s story.

When The Green Glass Sea ends, Dewey’s dad has died and the Gordons have taken her in. With World War II over and the atom bomb no longer a secret, they move from Los Alamos to Alamogordo, New Mexico, where Suze’s dad is one of the General Electric scientists working with the Army to perfect a rocket that can go into space and carry a nuclear bomb. After seeing the results of their work in Los Alamos, Suze’s mom, Terry Gordon, works to let the world know of the dangers of atomic bombs. She’s fighting a rising tide of Americans’ fascination with all things atomic.

Suze and Dewey are starting all over again at a new school and hoping to fit in better than they did at Los Alamos. They have each other, but they hope to make new friends as well. Klages has done a masterful job of capturing the time period and the small town in New Mexico in which the story takes place. It was a time when kids had a lot of freedom to roam, time on their hands and not a lot of money or electronic attractions. This often meant they had to get creative to kill their boredom.

Dewey’s interest and ability in science pairs well with Suze’s interest and ability in art. In their attic room, they go to work on a wall that showcases both their talents. The story moves at a leisurely pace that’s somewhat like the slow summer days the girls experience at the beginning of the book, and I found myself matching my reading pace to their exploits. I also found myself dreaming of a time that was simpler in many ways and more complicated in others.

There are also plenty of family dynamics for mothers and daughters to discuss: the tension between Suze’s parents as her mom becomes more pacifist and her dad is caught up in the atomic craze. The tension between the two girls over parental love and attention and what makes a family. The tension between whites and those of Mexican descent in this small New Mexican town. It all adds up to a great book to read and talk about.

 

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