The Story: Hideki is not a boy anymore. Sure, he may still be subject to the taunting of his fellow schoolmates, but he’s leaving his childhood behind fast, especially when he is handed a grenade and told to kill any American soldiers he comes across. His orders aren’t that different from those given to Ray, a young American marine who is helping to sweep the island in preparation for the atomic bomb. He’s never killed anyone, but he’s about to find out that in war, it’s kill or be killed. Together, Hideki and Ray make up both sides of the conflict and they’re working their way across the island to each other. One way or another, this grenade is about to go off.
My Thoughts: This is a much more serious look at the fallout of war than some of the other books I’ve reviewed. Death is not hidden, glossed over, or treated with a padded glove. That having been said, this is an excellently crafted book. Alan Gratz tells a story full of characters that I both deeply sympathize with and also find myself in adversity to. The story is complex and makes the reader question the ethics of war on both sides. I highly recommend it.
Parental Advisory: This is a book that shows what happens in the fallout of war, especially a war like WWII where it seemed as if the whole world was falling down around the youth. The fact that children and young adults were so involved in the fight is also not stuffed under the rug. My advice? Read this either before or with your middle grader so that you can have deeper discussions with your child.