Plot/Idea: Fallout Shelter progresses at a steady pace while incorporating unexpected twists that up the entertainment value. The coming-of-age elements converge smoothly, as the three main protagonists try to navigate school and young adulthood in the face of unmistakable darkness.
Prose: Schindler is strongest when depicting early teenage angst and antics, integral components to the story's appeal, and the balance of action, dialogue, and description is spot on.
Originality: A stirring account of evil lurking where it's least expected, Fallout Shelter successfully combines betrayal, friendship, and self-discovery into one interconnected story.
Character Development/Execution: Schindler dedicates ample space to exploring the narrative arcs of Chili, Angel, and Mikey—but does so in a way that gives each priority while reconciling them with each other by the end.
Date Submitted: August 29, 2022
Schindler charts their youthful pranks and dreams growing up in New York at its run-down 1970s sleaziest, finding escape from the world in the fallout shelter of the title. The era is expertly evoked: “Latin music mixed with the Irish Rovers and the Rolling Stones as they melded into a sidewalk symphony.” Perhaps inevitably, the boys face betrayals and hurt feelings as they mature, and Schindler's depiction of how friends can drift apart but find their way back to each other is especially touching and intimate. All three served as altar boys, familiar with whispered secrets of priests sexually molesting young boys in their care as teachers and pastors; the treatment of that scandal and trauma here is devastating and unsparing, edging into suspense territory, as one boy related to the central trio witnesses a priest’s crime, putting him in danger.
It all culminates in a surprising, explosive climax, handled with seriousness despite the hints of melodrama. Schindler's sensitivity in depicting trans characters, in particular, is remarkable, as is his moving, detailed evocation of these memorably flawed characters’s big dreams, tough talk, and connections to each other and their world.
Takeaway: Both a tender coming-of-age New York period piece and a harrowing exploration of corruption in the church.
Great for fans of: Arlene Alda’s Just Kids from the Bronx, John Boyne's A History of Loneliness.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: A-