When the war ended, life in America was supposed to go back to normal. It hadn't. After Hiroshima, everyone in the world knew about the atom bomb, the secret "gadget" that the Gordons and her papa had worked on at Los Alamos. Now it was the Bomb, with a capital B, as if it were the only one, ever. People were afraid, every day, that they might all die in an instant, without any warning.
The post-war atmosphere is only one of the many changes Suze Gordon and Dewey Kerrigan have to deal with -- the girls are in a new town, making new friends, developing new interests and discovering the horrors of Home Economics. White Sands, Red Menace is the best sort of sequel: It continues a story about characters I know and love, but the problems and issues they face are very different and because they have grown and are still growing, they themselves continue to change as the story progresses, as does their relationship.
In The Green Glass Sea, Dewey Kerrigan and Suze Gordon had to learn to live together in the same house, in the same room, as roommates. In White Sands, Red Menace, they are learning to live together in the same house, in the same room, as part of a family. Suze is suddenly no longer an only child. Even if Suze never acted jealous and propriatorial, Dewey would still be unable to feel completely comfortable, settled in and safe with the Gordons. She is well aware that at any minute, someone could take her away. Because, as far as she knows, her mother is still out there somewhere, and Dewey is with the Gordons in a very unofficial capacity. And, due to their vastly, passionately differing opinions about the continuing experimentation with atomic power and rockets, the adult Gordons are facing a changing relationship as well.
As in the first book, the era and the physical setting (the landscape, the town and even, sometimes, the buildings) act as characters as important and as interesting as the people the story follows. As I did while reading the first book, I found myself jotting down lists of things to look up and read more about: Spinthariscopes! A good tamale recipe! A biography of Wernher von Braun! As with the first book, I found myself thinking about aspects of the era I hadn't really considered before. This time, I found myself thinking a lot about how the war -- and the end of the war -- would have affected womens' roles at home, in the workplace, in society.
While I love both Suze and Dewey very much, it's Dewey who has stuck with me more. This, from very early on in the book, just made me deliriously happy:
Life was pretty swell. She was thirteen--and a half--just an ordinary teenage girl sitting in an ordinary American drugstore. She smiled as she sipped her chocolate malt, then opened Fundamentals of Mechanical Physics and began to read.
Once again, as with The Green Glass Sea, highly, highly recommended to adult readers as well as younger ones.
The quotes I pulled are from a review copy -- the book comes out in October. No complaining! It gives you time to re-read the first one (or read it for the first time and THEN re-read it!). et moving.