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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

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.…


by Alan Gratz

Overall Book Review:

Grenade by Alan Gratz is a book about the Battle of Okinawa in which there really are no heroes and no villains, but as Hideki observes, rather human beings that are transformed by the horrors and stress of war into monsters.  This book does not glorify war, but shows the wastefulness and senselessness of it.  The author expertly crafts an atmosphere of confusion, fear, physical misery, and exhaustion.

The book, in general, follows two characters:  Ray, an 18-year-old American Marine and Hideki, a 14-year-old Okinawan who has been conscripted by the Japanese Army to fight against the American invasion.  This two-pronged approach balances the narrative, giving both perspectives, while the reader along with the characters tries to make sense of it all. Eventually the characters’ paths intersect in an unexpected and tragic way.

This is a nuanced and poignant historical fiction read which is geared appropriately towards its target audience; however, because of the thematic matter and some of the horrific events, it is suggested that the recommended age of 12+ be noted.  There is an author’s note at the end which lends further insight into the Battle of Okinawa from a macro view.  Highly recommended for a thoughtful read!

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic Press (A Scholastic Imprint)

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation; 10 mild obscenities; 2 scatological words.  Note:  Author at the beginning of the book indicates that historically accurate terminology will be used throughout the book.  A note at the end talks about disparaging names.  The historical use of such names was not tallied.

Violence/Gore:  Americans bomb/attack Okinawa; middle schoolers are given grenades to kill Americans and themselves; report of Japanese suicide bombers; recall of belt-whipping; reference to Pearl Harbor; students is going to make another student run a gauntlet of fists; kamikazes; reference to a a cowardly ancestor whose head was cut off; sniper shoots soldier in the head; sniper shot killed (sniper is a kid); civilians step off cliff to their death; battle scene with grenades and shooting and deaths; soldier shoots and kills another soldier; grenades are thrown into tombs, killing hiding families; report a ship was sunk by a submarine and family members were killed; injured family member dies; accidental grenade set-off resulting in injury; report of death of FDR; soldier beats/hits another soldier in anger; secondhand remembrance of incident with father where father cuts his son with a knife while in a rage; bombs strapped to refugees to use as a human shield and kill Americans, soldiers shoot and kill the refugees; character comes upon a bombed school and sees all the dead students; report Hitler committed suicide; character removes clothes from a dead man to wear; explosion and deaths; soldier hits a 14 year-old; soldiers use flame-throwers and grenades to clear caves, sometimes civilians are inside; woman with a baby is strapped with explosives in a scene involving flamethrower, shooting, and deaths; characters is killed b a grenade; flamethrower and bayonet used on soldiers and civilians in a cave; threated at gunpoint; child shot in arm; various scenes of hostility and peril.

Note:  The entire- book is an account of the Battle of Okinawa and almost every scene and chapter has violence. The violence is described briefly.  

Sex/Nudity:  Characters strips clothing to get clean (non-sexual); male and female characters strip clothing down to underwear and rags to show they are unarmed (non-sexual).

Mature Subject Matter:

Death, death of a family member, human shields, war, WWII, mistreatment of civilians and children in war situations, bullying.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Reference to a parent sometimes being drunk.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!