Most 17-year-old boys play some kind of sport, cruise the countryside with their friends, get involved with girls or jobs, or play endless video games. In the early 1990s, David Hahn did indeed have a car and a girlfriend, but he also had a crude nuclear reactor in his family’s backyard shed.
This book is the story of a young man who became completely obsessed with chemistry as a preteen, and, once introduced to the concept of atomic power, abandoned nearly every other aspect of his life to pursue the creation of nuclear energy, all by himself. Rather than confiding in adults with experience or seeking guidance from same, young David generates layers of deceit and disguise in his quest to gather the materials necessary to slake his radioactive thirst. He readily admits that his motive was pure: affordable and clean energy for everyone. Unfortunately, his passion overwhelms his sense of discernment, and the reader can see pretty clearly where this will eventually lead.
Knowing the ending does not prevent this from being a near-riveting account, with the pieces put together one at a time by the author. Since the young man’s parents were divorced, neither knew the complete story until Silverstein was able to interview everyone from that period. Surprises continued all the way into 2007 for many of the players involved. Unfortunately, a quick check in Wikipedia indicates that David continues to struggle with life in general.
Rating: Moderate. A single f-word, and 4 other instances of mild curse words.