So last year I devoured a number of books by Alan Gratz (look for the tags at the bottom of this post to check them out!), falling in love with his ability to tell the tales of those broken by war, putting faces and stories to the countless unnamed who didn’t make it to tell their story themselves.
Grenande takes place during WWII at the battle of Okinawa. Ray, a young mid western farmer turned solider is just a freckled faced boy when he lands on the beaches of Okinawa with the sole mission to get home alive. Hideki is an even younger boy, Okinawan pulled from school and made to join the Blood and Iron Student Corps who was given 2 grenades and a mission. One grenade to kill as many Americans as you can, and one to kill yourself. Told through alternating chapters between Ray and Hidekis perspectives, the reader comes to realize the two, while fighting on opposite sides of the war, are actually not so different.
Gratz has such a unique way of bringing history to life within his stories. They are chalk full of history and facts but in a way that feels very natural and engaging. This book more so than his others really highlights the effects of war on people, soldiers in particular. Grantz does an amazing job of humanizing each solider, from both sides, showing that their similarities far outweigh their differences. Fear turned them into monsters, Japanese and American alike, but we can choose to overcome that fear and remember our humanity. Poor Hideki broke my heart. To be so young, to lose so much, to be forced to make impossibly hard life or death decisions was gut wrenching. I was awed by his sticktoitiveness and unrelenting bravery in the face of so many adversities.
An important read, bursting with history and the effects of war on the human psyche that I recommend to my readers of all ages.
Until next week friends