From the author of Soldier Boys and Search and Destroy comes a thought-provoking, action-packed page-turner based on the little-known history of the Japanese Americans who fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.
Yuki Nakahara is an American.
But it’s the start of World War II, and America doesn’t see it that way. Like many other Japanese Americans, Yuki and his family have been forced into an internment camp in the Utah desert. But Yuki isn’t willing to sit back and accept this injustice—it’s his country too, and he’s going to prove it by enlisting in the army to fight for the Allies.
When Yuki and his friend Shig ship out, they aren’t prepared for the experiences they’ll encounter as members of the “Four-Four-Two,” a segregated regiment made up entirely of Japanese-American soldiers. Before Yuki returns home—if he returns home—he’ll come face to face with persistent prejudices, grueling combat he never imagined, and friendships deeper than he knew possible.--From the publisher
978-1481462525 Ages 12 and up 260 pages
Yuki lives on a farm in California, and right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, things get bad. His father is taken away, and the family ends up at an internment after having to sell the farm. Despite this, Yuki andhis friend Shig both feel that they should join the army, and end up training in the South and being deployed to Italy with the 442nd "Go For Broke" regiment. This group saw horrendous action and was involved in a lot of fighting. Yuki sees many of his comrades fall on the field of battle, and sees others gravely injured. He suffers wounds himself, and also battles crippling pain in his feet due to having to remain in wet footwear in the cold. Eventually, a bullet and a collapsed lung send him home, where he faces prejudice in a Colorado barber shop and returns to his family in the internment camp.
Strengths: Hughes has a great balance in his books about war, and his books are hugely popular in my library. There is a short introduction about Yuki's circumstances, he gets sent quickly to the front, he sees a lot of action, and Hughes does not glorify the fighting at all. He has a brilliant way of giving the boys the descriptions of fighting that they want while making no attempts to hide how horrible and brutal war is. This makes both me and my WWII obsessed readers happy.
This is also clearly well researched, and I appreciated the notes. Starting with a description of the 442nd was a great hook (readers of these books usually love statistics, and can quote them readily), and giving more information at the end tied everything together well.
The pacing of this worked for me, with the exception of the odd jump between the first and second chapters. It took me a couple of pages to realize that Yuki and his family were at the camp. While others have commented that there were a lot of deaths and little time to process them, that seemed appropriate to the story. At one point, Shig was telling Yuki about some downed comrades, and Yui replies that if they're dead, he just doesn't want to hear about them. I don't know how else soldiers would really be able to deal with the carnage they must witness. It is also important to remember that there was a completely different mind set during WWII about patriotism and the enemy.
Weaknesses: The few reviews of this that I saw on Goodreads were not very positive, and some mentioned being unable to finish the book because of the writing. I can't agree with this. It is certainly no-frills writing, but this will appeal to the target demographic who don't want to wade through a lot of description and philosophical musing.
I am not of Japanese descent, so I can't speak to the accuracy of the depiction, but it seems respectful and likely. Yuki is American, loves his family, wants to do what other American men are doing, but also is unhappy about how he is being treated.
What I really think: Was this a book that I wanted to read? No. Was it quite as good as Salisbury's Hunt for the Bamboo Rat? No. Was it a book that every middle school library needs to purchase? Absolutely! My copies of Soldier Boys and Search and Destroy are ALWAYS checked out. I think this is a very solid introduction to an interesting and little known facet of World War II.
Recommended by: Karen Yingling, Librarian, Ohio USA
See more of her recommendations: http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com
Read alikes: Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury; Other WWII titles: Search and Destroy; Soldier Boy