Leaving Kent State

Leaving Kent State

by Sabrina Fedel


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On May 4, 1970, the campus of Kent State University became the final turning point in Americans’ tolerance for the Vietnam War, as National Guardsmen opened fire on unarmed student protestors, killing four and wounding nine. It was one of the first true school shootings in our nation’s history. A new young adult novel, Leaving Kent State (Harvard Square Editions), by debut author Sabrina Fedel, brings to life America’s political and social turmoil as it ushered in the new decade of the 1970s. Throughout the harsh winter of 1969-1970, Kent, Ohio, became a microcosm of the growing unrest that threatened the very nature of democracy.

Told from the viewpoint of seventeen-year-old Rachel Morelli, Leaving Kent State explores themes of the day that are strikingly similar to our own: terrorism, war, racial injustice, and gender inequality. As Rachel struggles to convince her dad that she should go to Pratt University in New York to pursue her dream of becoming an artist, Kent slips ever further off of its axis, in step with the growing discord across the nation. Caught between her love for her next door neighbor, Evan, a boy who has just returned from Vietnam, and her desire to escape Kent, Rachel must navigate a changing world to pursue her dreams.

“While our nation has largely forgotten what happened on May 4, 1970,” says the author, “it was a defining moment for the way in which Americans consider involvement in war. While popular sentiment initially blamed the students for the massacre, it became clear in the years immediately following that something had gone terribly wrong in our democracy for American troops to have opened fire on unarmed college students. In our own protest laden present, the shootings at Kent State remain a valuable lesson in the escalation of force during peaceful citizen protests.”

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The simmering love of Rachel, a budding artist, for Evan, a maimed Vietnam vet, explodes beneath the thunderclouds of political tumult and student rebellion. You savor every sentence, but, knowing where it's heading, you can't turn the pages fast enough. Kent State is a spot-on historical drama and one visceral, thrilling debut!"

-Tony Abbott, award winning author of Firegirl

"LEAVING KENT STATE does what excellent historical fiction is supposed to do--it breathes life into an era. Through the eyes of its young protagonist, this well-researched novel recreates the tensions in Kent, Ohio, during the Vietnam War years and the tragedy that resulted. Readers will love Sabrina Fedel's masterfully drawn characters, her compelling plot, and her rich prose. This is the debut novel of a sensitive and accomplished writer."

-Patricia Harrison Easton, author of Beverly Cleary Children's Choice Award winner Davey's Blue-Eyed Frog

"A poignant and gripping tale of a young girl's love for a Vietnam Vet played out against state-side resistance to an immoral war. The ensuing violence on a college campus is conveyed with stunning historical accuracy."

-Pat Lowery Collins, acclaimed author of The Fattening Hut and Hidden Voices

Kirkus Reviews

The Vietnam War comes home as rising political tensions culminate in the 1970 Kent State University shootings in this debut historical novel. Seventeen-year-old Rachel Morelli is thrilled when her neighbor and longtime crush, Evan Olesson, returns to Kent, Ohio, from his service in Vietnam. She's surprised to find that he's lost nearly all the fingers on his left hand and that his dreams of studying music have disappeared. In a classic will-they-or-won't-they love story, Rachel pines for Evan, but he seems to view her as a little sister. Fedel balances this romance with an exploration of Rachel's artistic ambitions and her dream of attending Pratt Institute in New York City rather than local Kent State University. Behind the characters' ambitions, the novel pulses with cultural details of 1969 and '70: Rachel consumes Nestle Quik and watches Walter Cronkite on the news, and she struggles with what it means that women can wear jeans and that her older sister can be accepted into law school. The changing social mores create a colorful backdrop as Rachel and her peers begin to question everything they know. It all comes to a head with Evan's return to Kent, as characters grapple with the Vietnam War. Fedel shows the steps of radicalization and—through Evan's experience—how ordinary people can commit acts of violence. As the story moves ever closer to the infamous Kent State tragedy, during which Ohio National Guardsmen killed four students, the historical and political tensions grow. But the history remains grounded and never expository as Rachel tries to figure out how she feels about events as they happen. The strongest aspect of the book is how its characters use art as a form of resistance—Evan as a musician and Rachel as a visual artist; at one point, Evan explains that art is "fighting back in your own way, and when people see your art and they realize its truth, that's a protest." A love story that engagingly merges themes of art and anger.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941861240
Publisher: Harvard Square Editions
Publication date: 11/11/2016
Pages: 334
Sales rank: 1,131,254
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)

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