Gr 5 Up—In 1945, as the U.S. army neared mainland Japan, the Imperial Japanese Army evacuated its elite troops from Okinawa and left behind a force meant to slow down the Americans in the bloodiest way possible. They recruited the native Okinawans into this army, including teens like Hideki, one of the two narrators of this gripping World War II novel. As Hideki takes his two grenades (one to kill U.S. soldiers and one to kill himself), he is fated to come across the other narrator, a young American soldier, Ray. Based on research and firsthand accounts the author heard while in Okinawa, history comes violently to life in this character-driven, fictionalized account. The battle details are accurate and the characters and the growing sense of the battle's futility are well drawn and poignant. There is some offensive contemporaneous language referring to Japanese people used within the narrative, which is explained in a note at the beginning and in greater detail in the detailed historical note at the end. While this is a chilling, realistic depiction of war, the violence is not glorified or graphically described. VERDICT An excellent World War II novel, best suited for mature readers who can handle the sensitive content and brutal realities of wartime.—Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK
In the waning days of World War II, two young soldiers tell both sides of their fight to survive.
It's 1945, and Okinawa has been forced into the middle of the war between Japan and the United States. Thirteen-year-old Okinawan Hideki has been drafted to fight in the Imperial Japanese Army. Told the Americans are "monsters," Hideki is sent off with two grenades, one to kill as many Americans as possible and one to kill himself. Meanwhile, Ray, a young, white American Marine, has landed on the beaches of Okinawa for his first battle. Only knowing what he has been taught and told, Ray is unsure of what to expect facing the Japanese army and also the Okinawan civilians—who are "simple, polite, law-abiding, and peaceable," according to an informational brochure provided by command. Switching between the two perspectives of Hideki and Ray, Gratz (Refugee, 2017, etc.) has created a story of two very harsh realities. He shows what happens to humans as the fear, violence, and death war creates take over lives and homes. The authentic telling can be graphic and violent at times, but that contributes to the creation of a very real-feeling lens into the lives changed by war. A large-type opening note informs readers that period terminology has been used for the sake of accuracy, and a closing author's note elaborates on this.
Intense and fast-paced, this is a compelling, dark, yet ultimately heartening wartime story. (maps, historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
“One grenade is for the American monsters coming to kill your family.... You are to use the other grenade to kill yourself.” These are the orders that Hideki, a 13-year-old Okinawan student conscripted by the Japanese military, receives on Apr. 1, 1945, as newly deployed Pvt. Ray Majors and 183,000 American soldiers and Marines “boarded amphibious troop carriers and headed east toward the beaches of Okinawa.” Told in alternating perspectives by Hideki and Ray, Gratz (Refugee) depicts the events and fallout of WWII’s “Love Day” while exploring the emotional and cultural damages of war. As the two young men fight across the island of Okinawa, Ray tries to understand the nuanced relationship between Okinawan civilians (called “simple, polite, law-abiding, and peaceful” in a brochure U.S. command offers) and the Japanese military. Hideki, meanwhile, grapples with his growing realization that Okinawa is a “sacrificial stone” in the grand scheme of WWII, and that the Okinawan people have been manipulated and largely abandoned by the Japanese military. War is portrayed honestly here; though gore is kept to a minimum, the finality of death and the lasting emotional consequences are starkly rendered. An opening note explains that WWII-era terminology is used in the name of historical accuracy, and an author’s note elaborates. Ages 9–12. Agent: Holly Root, Root Literary. (Oct.)
Praise for Refugee:An Amazon Best Book of the YearA Publishers Weekly Best Book of the YearA Kirkus Best Book of the YearA Texas Bluebonnet Master List selection "Unflinching and sympathetic." -- The New York Times"Grade A: A stunning, poignant novel." -- Entertainment Weekly"Harrowing, timely." -- People Magazine"A gripping, visceral, and hold-your-breath intense story." -- John Green, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars* "Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future... Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review* "[A] hard-hitting novel... Filled with both tragic loss and ample evidence of resilience, these memorable and tightly plotted stories contextualize and give voice to current refugee crises, underscoring that these journeys are born out of a desperate need for security and safety." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review"Gratz, who is known for well-written and well-researched historical fiction, doesn't disappoint. His latest is timely and moving... This compelling novel will help young people make sense of today's refugee crisis. Meant to be read, discussed, and shared widely." -- School Library Journal"Some novels are engaging and some novels are important. Refugee is both." -- #1 New York Times bestselling author Ruta Sepetys"This heart-stopping novel is not only compelling -- it is necessary." -- Judy Blundell, National Book Award-winning author of What I Saw and How I Lied"An incredibly important, heartrending, edge-of-the-seat read, bringing light to the plight of immigrants who search for safety and freedom." -- Pam Muñoz Ryan, author of the New York Times bestseller and Newbery Honor Book Echo"With urgent, clear-eyed storytelling, Gratz's Refugee compellingly explores the desperation and strength that unites those struggling for a place to call home." -- Eliot Schrefer, New York Times bestselling author and two-time National Book Award finalist of Rescued and Endangered"Full of struggle, heroism, and non-stop adventure, Refugee is not only an important book, it's a terrific story." -- Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author of the New York Times bestseller and Newbery Honor Book The War That Saved My Life"Powerful and compelling. Refugee is a story about what unites us all." -- Christina Diaz Gonzalez, award-winning author of Moving TargetPraise for Projekt 1065:* "While the book is replete with fascinating historical insight, Gratz has also crafted a suspenseful mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. With short, action-packed chapters, it is a great choice for reluctant readers as well... A winning combination of action, suspense, and historical setting." -- School Library Journal, starred review* "A rare insider's glimpse into the Hitler Youth: animated, well-researched, and thought-provoking." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review"[A] high-action spy thriller." -- BooklistPraise for Code of Honor:"Readers will be swept up by both the intrigue and the rapid pacing... Kamran is a smart and sympathetic narrator, and readers will be happy to spend time with him in this action-packed thriller." -- Kirkus Reviews"Exciting, at times ripped from the headlines, and scary, this cinematic work has layers of intrigue and danger in each scene... will appeal to a variety of readers and will raise questions about patriotism, loyalty, and trust... A winner." -- School Library Journal"Vivid characters and timely topics, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, contribute to making Code of Honor a first-rate novel." -- Voice of Youth AdvocatesPraise for Prisoner B-3087:A Junior Library Guild SelectionGolden Sower Award, 2014-2015 Winner NebraskaIsinglass Teen Read Award, 2014-2015 Winner New HampshirePennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award, 2014-2015 WinnerJunior Book Award, 2015-2016 Winner South CarolinaGrand Canyon Reader Award, 2015-2016 Winner ArizonaTruman Readers Award, 2015-2016 Winner MissouriReaders Choice Awards, Winner 2015-2016 Virginia Volunteer State Book Award Winner, 2015-2016 Tennessee"A powerful story, well told." -- School Library Journal"A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored." -- Kirkus Reviews"[A] remarkable survival story." -- Booklist"Gratz ably conveys... fatalism, yearning, and determination in the face of the unimaginable." -- Publishers Weekly"Heartbreaking, gripping, raw, and emotional... storytelling at its finest." -- Voice of Youth Advocates