Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)
When fourteen-year-old Hideki is drafted to fight for the Japanese in World War II, his superiors tell him it’s his duty to protect his island, Okinawa. Ray, a young American Marine, is in a fight of his own, on the same island. But everything changes when Hideki and Ray face each other in battle in Grenade by author Alan Gratz.
Man. This may very well be the grittiest middle grade novel I’ve read in my life, or at least since I’ve been past middle grade age. And even if you’ve also grown past the young readers this novel targets, don’t mistake it for a juvenile storybook or something.
This isn’t a nostalgic, romantic, or watered-down tale, to make war look like a grand and glorious adventure, merely a mechanism for building heroes. It’s a gut-wrenching, violent, tragic story of the impossible costs of deadly conflict. While it’s not gratuitous in its horror, like a book that would give me nightmares, this novel makes no bones about conveying that war is just that.
A nightmare. A waking one.
And yet, it isn’t a dark story for the sake of darkness. It’s a human story. A nuanced story. A story that might make your soul cry. Hideki’s and Ray’s experiences and reflections reach to a critical level past the surface of things, as this isn’t a journey of easy, surface answers.
The ending of Part One is painfully brilliant, and, man, how the sober, overall ending manages to be triumphant is incredible.
Read it. If your soul cries, let it. Oh—and after the last scene, do not skip the Author’s Note.