By Randall Platt
Published 2014 by Sky Pony Press
Life in Sea Park, Oregon is pretty uneventful - until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Now, Jewels barely recognizes her neighbors. Most in danger is Tommy Kaye, the man Jewels views as a stand-in father and the wealthiest man in town. He also happens to be Japanese and being Japanese is bad news right now.
This galley showed up at work one day and, considering my affinity for historical fiction, I figured I'd give it a shot before passing it along. I didn't have many expectations - I'd never heard of the author and, like many fans of historical fiction, I've read my fair share of World War II fiction. However, this book takes the point of view of a young girl on the home front and examines the plight of Japanese-Americans during the War.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much I have to say beyond this. I really enjoyed this perspective on the war - the story of the interment of Japanese-Americans was not one that got a lot of attention during my years in school, though hopefully that has changed. I thought Jewels' voice was very realistic, though at times, this made the book unbelievably frustrating. I appreciated her struggles coming of age and learning that people are more complicated than they seem when you're a child. At times, her naive understanding of the complexities of human nature and war and politics were endearing - it's heartbreaking to see her learn these things in such a high-stakes situation.
But, at other times, this made her a complicated character to enjoy. Many of the decisions she made obviously came from a place of love and misguided understanding, but they were still terrible decisions. And this didn't just happen with Jewels. I had a really hard time believing that her brother, a character who is repeatedly described as a genius, would make some of the decisions he makes. Similarly, I had a hard time accepting that Tommy Kaye would go along with Jewels' plan. Additionally, Jewels' mother, who basically comes off as a functioning alcoholic, later quits drinking rather abruptly - it didn't seem likely to me, particularly considering the difficult situation she was now finding herself in.
Overall, an interesting perspective, but not the best historical fiction has to offer.