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During WWII, a teenage boy finds his voice, the courage of his convictions, and friends for life in an emotional and uplifting novel by the New York Times and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author.

1941. Steven Katz is the son of prosperous landowners in rural California. Although his parents don’t approve, he’s found true friends in Nick, Suki, and Ollie, sons of field workers. The group is inseparable. But Steven is in turmoil. He’s beginning to acknowledge that his feelings for Nick amount to more than friendship.

When the bombing of Pearl Harbor draws the US into World War II, Suki and his family are forced to leave their home for the internment camp at Manzanar. Ollie enlists in the army and ships out. And Nick must flee. Betrayed by his own father and accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he turns to Steven for help. Hiding Nick in a root cellar on his family’s farm, Steven acts as Nick’s protector and lifeline to the outside world.

As the war escalates, bonds deepen and the fear of being different falls away. But after Nick unexpectedly disappears one day, Steven’s life focus is to find him. On the way, Steven finds a place he belongs and a lesson about love that will last him his lifetime.

About the Author

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of forty books (and counting). An avid traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer, she shares her astrophotography with readers on her website.

Her novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association (ALA) for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than twenty-three languages in over thirty countries. Both Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow list, and Jumpstart the World was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. Where We Belong won two Rainbow Awards in 2013, and The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award in 2015.

More than fifty of her short stories have been published in the Antioch ReviewMichigan Quarterly ReviewVirginia Quarterly ReviewPloughsharesGlimmer Train, and many other journals; in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories and California Shorts; and in the bestselling anthology Dog Is My Copilot. Her stories have been honored by the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and have been nominated for Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in the annual Best American Short Stories anthology.

She is founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation and still serves on its board of directors. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton.

For more information, please visit the author at http://www.catherineryanhyde.com.

My Review

A heartbreaking look into the lives of four young teens at the beginning of World War II.

Son of a local landowner, Steven Katz seems to have advantages over many of the immigrant families in the area, but Steven has a secret that makes him an outcast with his peers.

Steven is gay.

Ridiculed by his old friends and belittled by his family (though they don’t know of his sexual orientation), Steven turns inward and becomes a loner until he meets three boys who will change his world and the way he sees it, forever.

Nick, Suki, and Ollie are sons of farmworkers. Each boy comes with issues of their own which are expertly developed throughout the novel, but for the purpose of this review I would like to center on Suki and his family.

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States is thrown into WWII. As such, Japanese immigrants, even those born and raised in the country, like Suki, are forced to give up virtually everything they own and make the long trek to camps supposedly created for their safety, but actually are virtual prisons. The Japanese people are made to work long hours in arid fields and are under guard at all times- just because they have the misfortune of having an opposing country as their heritage.

The author does a superb job of highlighting the bonds between the boys and the trials of being different than what is considered acceptable. Told in first person through Steven’s eyes only adds an extra layer to what is a poignant novel filled with sensitive issues valid even in today’s moral climate.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is definitely a five star read. It is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

31 thoughts

    1. People, on a whole, are judgmental. I feel like that’s the message Catherine is trying to impart in this story.
      Even though it takes place in the early 1940’s, much of the concept, sadly, holds true today.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He lives in a dysfunctional family and carries way too much burden on his teen shoulders. Many times throughout the book I wanted to tell him run away, it couldn’t be any worse on his own, but there are reasons he stayed which are revealed in the story.
      Heartbreaking on so many levels.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This book does sound heartbreaking, Jacquie. And it seems to deal with so many issues that the US faced (and faces) with bigotry, racism, classism, homophobia…and war on top of that. How tragic. Thanks for the thoughtful review. The book does sound like one that stays with you long after the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have the same issues in Canada. As a matter of fact, in the last month over a thousand children’s graves have been found at the sites of residential schools run by the Catholic church- heartbreaking.

      Like

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