The novel starts with a little boy named Eli Yanakakis being hustled into a huge fallout shelter his dad built, known as the Compound, as nuclear war breaks out. Unfortunately, his identical twin brother Eddy and his grandma were left outside to die by accident.
Seven years later, Eli, now fifteen, still lives with the guilt that his brother's and grandma's deaths may have been his fault. He has not had a haircut in all this time, he refuses to let anyone touch him, and he does not get along very well with his remaining family at all - his father is too cold and unsociable, his mother tries her best but can never get through to him, his sisters irritate him to no end, and let's not get started on his baby brothers Lucas and Quinn - whom Eli derisively dubs "The Supplements."
For his fifteenth birthday, Eli receives a music CD from his dad's pre-war stash. But the CD is not a writable copy as he is led to believe - that facade is pasted onto a real music CD, dated after the war. Not only that, but Eli is able to open a brief Internet connection outside the Compound - and even gets to chat with the supposedly dead Eddy. Then, Eli and the girls realize the world outside is still intact and try to get outside - something the head of household is adamantly against.
Thrilling though this novel is, it suffers from a certain degree of predictability. I also had a problem with the subplot about the Supplements - half the time the novel implies they are clones of their older siblings - Lucas in particular is said to look exactly like Eli - and the other half it seems as if they were merely bred to be extra food in case the food supply ran out - which, by the way, it nearly does, due to fungal contamination (Eli's dad eats some of the toxic food and suffers from some NASTY side effects). Read it, but you probably won't enjoy it unless you like predictable and/or overly complex action stories.