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Only months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Alex is being sent from his L.A. home to the East Coast. Alex and his family are Korean—his grandparents moved to Hawaii to get away from the Japanese empire— and because he won’t enlist like his older brother did, his father considers him a disgrace. Alex’s refusal to fight against their common enemy changes his life when he is attacked at a train station in a rural town. He has no money, no friends and he looks Japanese. Lonnie has longed to leave home and with it her mother’s rage, but a chance meeting with “an enemy” was nothing like she’d envisioned. Nor did she realize how violently prejudiced her town truly was.
Small-town life at the time of America's entry to WWII was different than many today might think. Everything bad was hidden until it exploded, and nice was sometimes only on the surface - especially after Pearl Harbor, and the death of local young men. Lonnie and Alex are perfect renderings of their time, cultures, and upbringings. Anyone familiar with multicultural literature will find a new author to love, and readers new to a beautifully developed look at a culture unlike ours will find a new genre to love. A few times some secondary characters behave more like a bad TV version of the 1940’s, straight-up stereotypes, but this is a minor blip. Lonnie isn’t immune to her town’s prejudice against Alex, but she is able to think things through before reacting. Alex is a moving and heartbreaking picture of a young man caught between two cultures and hated for events not of his making. Together, they are remarkable.