Tiny Navajo Reads: The War Outside


September 18, 2019 by TinyNavajo

The War Outside by Monica Hesse

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊

*Published September 25, 2018*

Book cover of The War Outside by Monica Hesse, featuring two girls in the background, one in a red dress and one in a blue dress. There is barbed wire fence framing the titleI actually read this book for a book club that I’m hosting for teens at my library for tomorrow. It was a surprising good book. Yes, it’s a Sequoyah Award winner, which is part of the reason why it was picked, as well as why I shouldn’t have been surprised by how good it was.

A novel of conviction, friendship, and betrayal.

It’s 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado–until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.

Haruko and Margot meet at the high school in Crystal City, a “family internment camp” for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day, and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother’s health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.

With everything around them falling apart, Margot and Haruko find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone–even each other?

I think was so good about this book was it brought forth some (to me) unknown history of the concentration camps during World War II. I knew there were Japanese internment camps near the West Coast, but I didn’t know that there were Enemy Alien Camps. This book is focused on the two girls and their families as they try to figure out why they are in the camp in the first place. There is Haruko, a first generation Japanese girl whose father was taken by the FBI and they are now following him to Crystal City; Margot, a German girl whose mother is deteriorating and her father is becoming a part of the Nazi party.

As Margot and Haruko slowly become friends, they learn that there is more to being friends than just being in the same place at the same time. But when disaster strikes the camp, the girls are turned against each other and they look to their families for survival.

This book gives a peek into what it may have been like to live in one of these cities, an internment camp; forced to go somewhere because your government is afraid of you because of your heritage. I was glad to read this book, if just to learn a little bit more about the history that hidden from the textbooks.

What do you find interesting about history? What have you learned that you feel you should have learned in school? Comment below and let me know!

One thought on “Tiny Navajo Reads: The War Outside

  1. […] this month, I read: Dragonsinger, The War Outside, New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, Teen Titans: Raven, Ink, Iron, and […]


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