Grenade

Alan Gratz. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-338-24571-4
“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.)
Reviewed on: 08/27/2018
Genre: Children's
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