It's 1945, and 13-year-old Stephen has just reached the gates of the top secret military base in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He has come to join his father, a famous physicist who is working on a covert project for the Allies. Though his father is forbidden to discuss the project in any detail, Stephen can tell by his haunted eyes and shaking hands how worried he and the other scientists are. After a few weeks, Stephen finds that he cannot control his insatiable curiosity. Enlisting the help of his new friend Tilanov, Stephen devises a plan to discover the true nature of "the gadget." But when he finally learns what it is, he also realizes another startling truth--that he has trusted the wrong person with the information and not only his life, but the lives of all Americans, could be in terrible danger.
The greatest strength of The Gadget is how Paul Zindel communicates, in clear and simple prose, how terribly uncertain many of those "in the know" were about dropping the atom bomb, and the idea that no one--not even top scientists--could really predict what the outcome would be. By combining this disconcerting notion with a rapid-fire plot and an Everyman teen protagonist, young adult veteran author Zindel has created a historical fiction that reads like a thrilling action-adventure pulp novel, except, (and this is the best part)--it's all true. Curious readers will also find a World War II chronology, bibliography, and short bios of prominent figures involved in the making of the atom bomb. (Ages 11 to 14)