Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Teen Tuesday: Grenade by Alan Gratz

Grenade by Alan Gratz. 288 p. Scholastic Inc. October 9, 2018. 9781338245691. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher)

The U.S. Marines are invading the island of Okinawa. This story is told from two alternating points of view. Hideki is supposed to be in middle school, only he and his classmates have been drafted into the Blood and Iron Student Corps and given two hand grenades - one to throw at the invading U.S. forces and one to use on themselves rather than be captured. Hideki doesn't think he can do either, so crippled is he by an inherited curse of cowardice in a country that prides itself on its courage. 

Ray is barely eighteen, not much older than Hideki. He and his Marine buddies anticipate a bloody battle when they land on the beach at Okinawa. This is his first battle and, as he worries about whether he will survive, he reflects on his relationship with his volatile father. 

The action is swift, brutal and unpredictable in this compelling, utterly un-put-downable novel. Alan Gratz just gets better with each new book. Refugee absolutely gutted me. I did not think anything could match or top it. Grenade gutted me in a different way. The details of Japanese culture and the invasion of Okinawa are seamlessly woven into the narrative. Readers will become invested in each boy. He is becoming quite good at inducing tears for most of the last third of his stories. I read this on the plane returning from Europe, squished in the middle seat. It is pretty hard to sniffle and sob squished in the middle seat of a trans-Atlantic flight. 

Gratz pulls no punches depicting the carnage of war. He also masterfully pulls the rug out from under the reader effectively leaving this reader stunned and flipping pages back to reread. His Author Note provides fascinating historical context. 

Gratz had quite a number of fans at my school before the sixth grade LA teachers made Refugee a whole-class read. Since that unit, I cannot keep his books on the shelf! Nice problem to have. I cannot wait to share Grenade with them come September. I need to purchase multiple copies. 

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