Cover Image: Within These Lines

Within These Lines

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Member Reviews

It’s been a while since I’ve read a historical fiction novel, but WWII centric stories seem to be the most popular nowadays. I’ve never read a book centered around this side of WWII before, particularly that of the Japanese internment camps across the United States. It’s pretty obvious why there probably aren’t as many books about this subject, considering how shameful this period is, but perhaps it’s important to have a book such as this one when xenophobia is still a very rampant issue across the world. 

The story follows the relationship between Evalina, an Italian-American teen, and Japanese-American Taichi. When Taichi and his friends and family are forced into internment camps, the couple attempt to communicate via letters. This story details the atrocities of these camps while highlighting the strength of those subjected to such hard conditions without any reasonable justification for doing so. 

I really liked this book. I felt so emotionally invested the entire time, caring about each and every one of the characters, which is a testament to how well-developed the ensemble as a whole is. The plot grabs you from the very beginning and doesn’t let you go until the very end. I think the writing lends itself very well to this as well, painting a grim picture of what it was like during this terrible time in history. 

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for the next great historical romance.
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This story takes place back in 1941 when the Japanese are being rounded up and interned. Evalina is an Italian American who falls in love with Taichi who is the son of Japanese immigrants. During this time interracial marriages are still against the law. Taichi and his family are sent to an internment camp and Evalina can only contact him through letters and speaking out. They hold on to their love through the course of this. The characters are remarkable and really make you think about this era in our not so great history. It is a heart wrenching tale of love and separation and racism within America.
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Please note: I was provided an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

It has taken me a while to review this book because I have picked it up and put it down several times in the hopes I just wasn’t in the mood to read it when I started. I am an avid enthusiast and lover of historical fiction, and the idea behind this novel sounded both brutal and beautiful. I hadn’t read a book about this part of the war before, and I was extremely excited to see a new perspective and learn more.

However, I did not finish this book. I read around half, then skimmed. I wanted to go ahead and write a review in the hopes that it would be helpful to the author or publisher to see why I wasn’t able to get into the book.

The reason I was not drawn in is that I feel like the book was started in the wrong place. By the time the reader is introduced to the story, Taichi and Evalina have already met and have secretly been seeing each other. This story would have had so much more of an impact if it had started at a point when they first were grappling with these feelings and how to proceed with them in the world they lived in. Instead, the reader was introduced once their relationship was already established, but they were still grappling with these feelings. I feel like with the book starting at the point it did, we missed out on part of the story that would have made the rest of the book have more of an impact.

Continuing with this thought, Evalina learning about the treatment of the families with Japanese ancestry would have been a great way for the reader to learn as well. As we didn’t get to learn about it with Evalina though, most of it was explained rather than shown. This made it a little more dry and harder to pick up on, rather than engaging and informative.

I never felt a real connection the characters, and again I believe it is because I wasn’t introduced to them when their story really began in earnest. Because I am a very character oriented reader and writer, I was never able to focus on the rest of the novel.

I think focusing on the Japanese-American families during the war was unique and very needed among the genre of YA Historical Fiction. But that being said, it felt like it lacked a bit of punch and didn’t deliver what I was anticipating. I think with a few tweaks this story would have been extremely impactful. But since it was started a bit on the wrong foot for me, it missed the mark a bit.
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Wow. Just wow. I loved this book. I have yet to read any book with this content as a focus, and it gave insight into a situation I had previously not thought about much. Great read!
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First, a big thank you to Blink YA, a division of Harper Collins, for publishing books that appeal to kids who don't want sex, violence, and bad language, but do want gritty plots that aren't saccharine sweet.  Morrill delivers in this story of a multi-ethnic romance between an Italian American girl and a Japanese American boy during World War II.  Well-researched, truly showing the shamefulness of the Japanese-American internment camps - and the various ways the inhabitants responded.  Morrill wrote a book that had me crying in an airport - high praise.  Highly recommended for middle and high school readers.
Review based on an ARC from NetGalley.
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This was a wonderful book that touches on a difficult subject that I'm not sure I've seen very much in the YA area (or in adult lit for that matter). Many people like to forget what went on during WWII on US soil, and it's something no would should be ignorant to anymore. Evalina and Taichi’s story and relationship was beautiful and painful to watch grow and develop, knowing in hindsight what they were about to experience. Definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys history and romance, especially in combination.
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This was such a fantastic book! The characters were very well developed and that made it so easy to sympathize with their struggle. I loved how Evalina never gave up on Taichi even when he was distancing himself from her. This is a story that will stay with me for a long time to come.
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I haven’t known about the Japanese American concentration camps in the US for very long. Several years ago, I came across a book about it, but I never finished it—probably because I didn’t find it all that interesting. However, my curiosity about the history surrounding that has been somewhat piqued since then, so when I saw this book coming out, I was excited to read it to learn what I could!

I instantly fell in love with Evalina and Taichi’s story. Seeing these two friends trying to make the best out of life—and fight for each other—was pretty special. I sympathized with Evalina’s feelings of helplessness, and Taichi’s just wanting to make the best of the situation, but most of all, I appreciated the resilience shown here.

It was also special to watch Evalina and Taichi’s relationship grow during the story. They both learned lessons about how to treat others and love others even in difficulty, and how to forgive and keep loving even when it seems hopeless.

It’s challenging to read stories about people who are put in difficult situations who do the best they can with what they have. Where I would be tempted to complain, they just dug in and did what needed to be done, and I really appreciate that sort of commitment!

In all, this was a great story! Perhaps not the nicest happening in America’s history, but I’m thankful people are willing to talk about the not-so-great aspects as well as the good ones. War is awful, no matter how one looks at it, but stories like this—while they may be fictitious—still speak of the brave men and women who lived for others as much as they could even in hardship. A good book!

I requested a free review copy of this book from Netgalley, and this is my honest opinion of it.
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I have REALLY got to stop reading WWII books back-to-back...My heart can't handle it anymore lol. That is one reason why this review has had to just marinate in my heart and brain.

Evalina and Taichi's story pulled at my heartstrings so very much. Living in such a dark time in history, the perseverance, the tenacity, the strength, and the power of love, is overwhelmingly beautiful. Morrill brought the injustice and sorrow that we, as a nation, like to gloss over. I am so glad that authors are tackling this topic that has been long looked over.

Morrill's descriptions were so tangible that I could hear the sounds, see the street market, and feel the wind and dust from Manzanar. I learned so much about history and culture while reading this book. Different details and conversations sparked my interest and of course, I had to go look things up. As you can see from these pictures it's easy to see why society thought that everything was cupcakes and rainbows at these camps. The media's agenda to shed the camps in a positive light was far from the truth as we now know.

But this is a review, not a history lesson lol! I do highly encourage you to read Within These Lines let your heart and eyes be opened to a new side of WWII history through this story of love, hope, and faith.

I received a complimentary copy of Within These Lines from the publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.
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4.5 stars

This is one of the most engaging and yet educational pieces of historical fiction I've ever read. Rather than the historical fiction that puts a spin on a familiar time and feels compelled to have an extravagant fiction element, this piece really shone a light on the history itself. The characters and events, though somewhat fictionalized, felt very real. Historical.

I liked Evalina more than I expected to as she was a fiery girl who often can't keep her mouth closed. Those sort of female characters easily annoy me with their lack of self-control. I think what made the difference with Evalina was her empathy and tenderness being at the heart of her passionate stand against injustice. While all of the characters were nice, I liked her the best.

My favorite thing about Taichi, other than his general sweetness, was his nonviolent approach. Even though his complacency did not always gain him anything, his refusal to spurn his country or lash out in return paid off in the end. That longsuffering and faith in the greater good is something hard to find in the face of political conflict these days.

The book struck a very nice balance in how it exposed the blatant truth of these events. Instead of being dramatic, detailed, and raw (I'm often unable to read such things when it's real events), there are just enough horrible, inhumane things for discomfort, righteous anger, and sympathy. The power was often in what was left unsaid. I enjoyed getting to learn more about this inglorious piece of America's history while also being sucked into a compelling drama.

Overall it was well-written, but I found some of the scene breaks to be a little abrupt and had a hard time remembering which category of Japanese was which. Also: the cover fits really, really well.

Recommended for ages 12+ for some peril and mild violence that may be distressing to sensitive readers. 

I received a review copy. The opinions expressed are my own.
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I love a good historical fiction, and this one was sooo good. A gorgeous and sometimes brutal portrayal of the realities of life during WWII, it is both heart wrenching and hopeful, and I would highly recommend this book. 5 out of 5 stars!
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I loved Stephanie Morrill's book The Lost Girl of Astor Street and looked forward to this book for ages - to be fair, I felt it was nothing like TLGOAS but I'm very glad I read it. It seemed very well researched, and I appreciated the historical look into one of the Japanese internment camps of World War II.
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Told in split narrative, we're able to catch glimpses of two sides of the dividing lines. This hard hitting topic was carried tactfully by a sweet and passionate love story of two teens caught in the thick of it all. It helped that Evalina came from an Italian family, and that she was not completely free from the stigma and prejudice that was rampant at the time, as this helped to bridge the chasm between her and Taichi. And the fact that Evalina stayed committed to Taichi even when she had other options or when it would have been easier to walk away makes this story just that much better. It's equal parts hopeful and horrifying, which made it impossible not to feel deeply as our two narrators undertook their journeys through the societal landscape of California following the bombing of Pearl Harbour. 

It was painful to see the quiet acquiescence with which many families went to the Manzanar camp simply because they were asked to, the cruelness with which the Japanese were treated even when they were clearly causing no harm, and the ways in which the citizens who were willing to speak out against these injustices were treated in turn. It made perfect sense that Evalina connected with the church group, that she decided to take up a male-dominated field of study at university, and that her advocacy efforts continued on campus.

Taichi showed a different kind of strength and offered the perfect balance to Evalina's stubborn and headstrong ways. He is quiet and contemplative, worried about disappointing his family, and always careful not to make waves. And though it broke my heart to read, I appreciated how he tried to protect Evalina from the reality of what he and his family were enduring. Also, I was completely undone by lengths he went through to protect and support his sister, provide for his mother, and eventually the steps that he took to keep the peace within the camp when tensions began to rise.

While there is a small amount of action, Within These Lines is driven by string characters, flawless research, and an exquisite attention to detail which brings all of the pieces together. Not only are Taichi and Evelina sweet and relatable, they are supported by a cast of excellent secondary characters. It's beautifully written, highly emotive, and absolutely breathtaking.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!
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A fresh perspective on the Japanese lives that were upended here in the US during WWII. The story follows Taichi (2nd generation Japanese) and Evalina (2nd generation Italian), teenagers living in San Francisco that fall in love. Taichi and his family are sent to the camps for Japanese Americans. 

The writing is solid, even if the ending is a little pat. The true hardship of living in these camps is shown, and nothing is glossed over. Morrill gives us a strong female protagonist in Evalina; a girl that is in love, but is also strong and independent and righteous. 

A strong historical fiction that will make romance readers happy as well.
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I am a huge fan of the wave of books for young people coming out about Japanese internment camps (Dash by Kirby Larson, The War Outside by Monica Hesse). This is such an important historical issue that tends to get overlooked in literature, even with World War II making up the bulk of historical fiction. I thought this one was a great contribution to the growing collection, reminiscent of Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in that it features a mixed-race romance torn apart by the evacuation. Between These Lines is unique to the YA canon in that it depicts the effects of internment both inside and outside of the camps. I especially loved the mixed civilian reactions we see through Evalina's eyes, from college professors to church volunteers. I also love how this one discusses race, comparing the conflation of Japanese citizens to the Japanese army to conflating the Germans with all white Americans, since they're all Caucasian. A lot of the literature focuses (rightly so) on the injustice of the internment and the camps' conditions, but this is the best fiction example I've come across in tearing apart any logic used to justify internment in the first place. The novel also really fleshes out the dehumanizing aspects of the internment camps.

I thought the main characters in the book were well fleshed out and believable (I was really interested in Rose and her character arc in particular). Evalina is written just shy of being an obnoxious soapboxer, but instead she comes across as sympathetic. Her sidekick Gia is the one unbelievable character who got on my nerves, mostly because I couldn't understand why Evalina puts up with her, but her story line is also representative of a lot of young women's experiences during the war. Evalina and Taichi's romance, on the other hand, was sweet, believable, and not over-the-top, which I loved because romance in YA is almost always overbearing and hijacks the plot--not the case here. The ending was just a little too neat and tidy for me, but overall I loved it.
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I find it hard to start. This book was an incredible story about two teenagers during World War II. You see how things unfold for these Italian-Americans, and Japanese-Americans. What fear and racism does to their victims. It was a really hard read for me emotionally. I struggle with those themes, but I want to make sure to give a hand to Stephanie who did a wonderful job of evoking such emotional response.
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Within these Lines, by Stephanie Morrill, tells the compelling story of two teenagers very much in love.  One is Italian-American and the other is Japanese-American.  The bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan in December, 1941 catapulted the United States into World War II.  Simultaneously, fear and racism combined to make anyone of Japanese descent, including American citizens, suspected of espionage and treachery.  This entire population was evacuated from their homes and livelihoods to live in camps under horrific conditions.  Morrill allows us to experience this awful period through the eyes of these two teens.  How they and their families survive the evacuation is a story of character and love as well as hardship.

Morrill's eye for historical detail brings this story alive...from the mention of the saddle shoes and hairstyles to the radio news broadcasts, this story is filled with authenticity.  The author gently reminds us that the treatment of the Japanese in America during the war is one of several episodes of sanctioned-racism in our history.  May we not forget.  I would recommend this book to middle and high school students whose teachers and parents can help them process the historic time period.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me to read an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Within These Lines is a book that you need time to reflect on. This is not a book to read casually, it demands your attention. I received a free ARC of this book from Blink Publishing in exchange for an honest review. 
I almost put this book down after three chapters. I couldn't get past the main character's name being Taichi, which isn't a Japanese name. Instead of trying to rush to finish this book before the publication date, I decided that I'd pick it up once I was home for spring break. I needed that, and so did this book. I really loved this story of injustice that showed many viewpoints of what was going on. Despite taking place in the 1940s, this book is relevant today. Perfect for the people who loved Esperanza Rising as kids.
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Beautifully written historical fiction story, from a somewhat dark period in history.  Amazingly strong characters who were never meant to meet fall in love and are determined to be together.   This is a book that I will never forget as it is so well-written and the love story is so absolutely haunting.  A well-researched, well-written, beautiful yet tragic love story between a Japanese man and an Italian American woman.  I will be thinking about this book for a long time to come....
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In December 1941, Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor, officially bringing the United States into World War II. As fear spread through the nation, the U.S. government forced Japanese Americans to leave their homes, jobs, friends, and lives behind and enter internment camps.

Set against this historical backdrop of turmoil, fear, and racism, Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill tells a heart-rending, yet beautiful story of love that perseveres, even when all else is against it.

Though Evalina Cassano and Taichi Hamasaki are fictional, their lives pulse with such compelling authenticity that you forget - even if for a moment - they’re characters in a novel and not living,breathing souls.

Yet their story of hope in the face of utter darkness and their courage to fight for what is right is inspiring. Even though this story takes place many decades in the past, it rings with timeless truths about the dangers of letting fear dictate our decisions, and reminds us of the value and dignity of all human life. That’s a message as needed today as it was in 1942.

This story gripped me from page one. By the time I read the final line, I’d not only learned more about our country’s history - and events that did affect real people - but I was also reminded of the importance of acknowledging the truth of where we’ve been so that we can live justly and love our neighbors today.

I believe that’s a testament to the power of stories like Within These Lines.
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