It's 1945, and the world is in the grip of war. Hideki lives with his family on the island of Okinawa, near Japan. When WWII crashes onto his shores, Hideki is drafted into the Blood and Iron Student Corps to fight for the Japanese army. He is handed a grenade and a set of instructions: Don't come back until you've killed an American soldier. Ray, a young American Marine, has just landed on Okinawa. This is Ray's first-ever battle, and he doesn't know what to expect -- or if he'll make it out alive. He just knows that the enemy is everywhere. Hideki and Ray each fight their way across the island, surviving heart-pounding ambushes and dangerous traps. But then the two of them collide in the middle of the battle... And choices they make in that single instant will change everything. Alan Gratz, New York Times bestselling author of Refugee, returns with this high-octane story of how fear and war tear us apart, but how hope and redemption tie us together.
Both Hideki and Ray are blunt as they tell their stories. War is not kind, and there is no effort to filter the effects of it--though Hideki uses the framing technique taught to him by a Japanese military photographer as he looks at various scenes on the island. Both Ray and Hideki reflect on their pasts and their family lives, and their back-stories add to the emotional impact of GRENADE.
GRENADE is brutal and honest and it offers an unflinching view of war. In war, even good people do things that are bad, and the life-or-death situations into which people are thrust bring out the best and worst in the characters of this book.
This is not an easy book to read, but even in its most bloody and challenging moments it reminds readers of the good and the hope that can come in the most difficult of times. Kudos to Gratz for a well-researched novel that will be a terrific addition to a middle school classroom.
My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.