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Extended Audio Sample Life: An Exploded Diagram Audiobook, by Mal Peet Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (743 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mal Peet Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Brilliance Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2011 ISBN: 9781455829040
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Clem, a working-class boy living in government-assisted housing, and Frankie, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, must keep their relationship secret. If it’s discovered, their world will be blown apart.

But unknown to them, President John F. Kennedy and the Russian leader, Nikita Khruschev, are shaping up to do just that—blow the world apart—as the two leaders fight over a small island in the Caribbean Sea, leading up to the events that will later be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For Frankie and Clem, “time, like everything else, is against them.”

In his most brilliant and ambitious novel yet, Mal Peet portrays the shattering power of love and the ricocheting effect of war through generations.

“Witty, super-smart, heartbreakingly generous, it’s so good, you almost want to keep it a secret.” -Patrick Ness, author of the award-winning Chaos Walking series

Life: An Exploded Diagram is Mal Peet’s finest work to date, by turns hysterically funny, sad, poignant, bitter, and rude, but always with that unfakeable sense of deep truth.” -Anthony McGowan, author of The Knife That Killed Me

“A new novel by Mal Peet is always something to be eagerly anticipated: finely drawn characters, ambitious storytelling, a broad historical canvas, piercing social critique—and now, much more than in previous novels, a delightfully irreverent streak of humor.” -Jonathan Hunt, blogger for School Library Journal’s Heavy Medal blog

“An astonishingly engaging, wonderful, un-put-downable book. His gorgeous writing makes one reread sentences over and over again for the pure joy of experiencing the language.” -Carol Stoltz, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Peet creates an explosive world where love is frowned upon and the past has bloody teeth and bad breath. It’s a world that demands deep examination and thought, and Peet has done a splendid job of creating it.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “This is mesmerizing through the sheer force and liveliness of its prose, as well as its unpredictable, inexorable plot. Peet’s gift for imagery makes the novel fizz with the intensity of an adolescent’s heightened perceptions—in which everything is alive, and even boredom is an all-engrossing activity. Place, period, and adolescent passion all come through with exuberant feeling and humor; Peet’s subtle, literary play with narrative voice, style, and chronology make this a satisfyingly sophisticated teen novel. Outstanding.”

    Horn Book (starred review)

  • “Sophisticated teens and adults will appreciate this subtle yet powerful exposition of the far-reaching implications of war.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books, Best Teen Fiction 2011 for Teens
  • Selected for the Winter 2011 Kids' Indie Next List: Teens
  • A 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book
  • A 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Young Adult Literature

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather Perkinson | 2/16/2014

    " This is a brilliantly written book that deftly weaves together the strands of a plot that includes a love affair between two teenagers living in rural England and the tumultuous events of the Cold War in the early late 50s and early 60s. Readers are drawn down into the history and culture of the setting through an introduction that delves into the gritty pasts of their families and then lifted back up again by the luminous and gently humorous story of the young couple's romance. Several elements conspire to keep you hanging on every word. The two kids have much to lose by being together, and their assignations are fraught with danger and desperation. The hopelessness and impossibility of their relationship echoes the climate in which they are living and ultimately allows the author to turn the story into a sort of allegory about war. But don't read it for the message, read it just to get to know and experience the greatly flawed but entirely lovable protagonist, Clem Ackroyd, who tells the story as an adult remembering his past. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Christie | 2/11/2014

    " There's a lot here that wants to be liked. I enjoyed the characters, the plot is interesting. I didn't read far enough to know how the whole thing was connected to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I gave up on the book after the history lesson that tried to be written in Clem's voice about 188 pages in. For the whole of those 188 pages, I have no idea why a teenager would be interested in reading this book. I kept wondering, Why is this YA? What did me in (besides a fairly slow pace) was the narrative voice. About a 1/3 of the book is first person by an adult Clem and the rest third person. It didn't work for me even a little. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jen Bellomo | 2/2/2014

    " A fabulous coming of age story, with the angst of first love juxtaposed against the Cuban Missile Crisis. A great read for all ages. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tamsyn | 1/27/2014

    " I enjoyed this story set in England in the 1950s and 60s, a coming-of-age story of a boy with a twist. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 1/20/2014

    " A unique book which told many stories over a large period of time, blending in big historical events with fictional people's lives. Even through it read like a biography during some parts it stayed witty all the way through, and presented very real characters. The start was very good; although I did find Clem's parents and grandparents more interesting than his relationship with Frankie, which could have been edited down. More emphasis on Clem's school life and the changing world would have made the middle section more interesting, and the parts on the cold war could probably have been made shorter. However, the different perspectives, and overall portrayal of life made it an entertaining book. It teaches you a few things about history as well. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kalen | 12/23/2013

    " Beautiful, poetic writing, but I found the story slow and overly cynical. The ending also felt somewhat unnecessary. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gail Mccullough | 11/9/2013

    " Really good I liked that it included real Cold war history. Shocked at the ending! but others might have seen it coming:) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Shannonmde | 9/22/2013

    " felt like a YA version of On Chesil Beach. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ollie | 8/17/2013

    " It was ok. I like the whole structure of it. At first it seemed like rambling and tangents but at the end it all pulled itself together into the big picture. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marie Bonsall | 8/10/2013

    " An enjoyable read, especially as it doesn't really finish as such. I liked the threads of different stories too. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sbe | 1/22/2013

    " Interesting format - a mix of fiction and history run as a parallel. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ginger | 1/1/2013

    " A sexual coming-of-age story, with an ending that made me want to throw it across the room. A cheap ending, not worthy of Mal Peet's skill. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alison | 8/26/2012

    " Very clever, amusing and thoughtprovoking. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sam Bloom | 4/30/2012

    " This book is masterfully, fantastically brilliant in every way. I need to go on a Mal Peet bender after that... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cathi | 2/13/2012

    " Definitely a upper middle school or high school book. I think one needs some perspective on the cold war and Great Britain to fully appreciate it. I beautifully written and engaging story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue | 10/31/2011

    " A funny, well-written, well paced read. Recommended "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gail | 10/8/2011

    " I agree with another reviewer--I would have given this 5, but I found myself getting impatient when I read the historical parts. I knew they were important to the story, but I wanted to skip ahead to read about Clem and Frankie! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jen | 9/19/2011

    " A fabulous coming of age story, with the angst of first love juxtaposed against the Cuban Missile Crisis. A great read for all ages. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sam | 7/29/2011

    " This book is masterfully, fantastically brilliant in every way. I need to go on a Mal Peet bender after that... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Libby | 6/13/2011

    " I love the opening to this book, it reels you in. The cover is intriguing. It describe this book perfectly. It is explosive yet mysterious and twisted. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Raquelle | 5/19/2011

    " Exquisite! That's the best word I can come up with to describe Mal Peet's writing. The narration was excellent. By the last CD, I didn't want to leave my car because it got so good. "

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About the Author
Author Mal PeetMal Peet published his first novel, Keeper, in 2003. It was translated into several languages and won the Branford Boase Award. He next won the Carnegie Medal in 2005 and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2009, as well as a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor in 2012 for Life: An Exploded Diagram. Born in Norfolk, England, in 1947, Mal Peet died in 2015.
About the Narrator

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and an AudioFile Golden Voice with over forty Earphones Awards. He has won thirteen prestigious Audie Awards and was Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London.