Cover Image: This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II

This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II

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Member Reviews

I wanted to read this book because it was a completely different perspective than what I'm used to when it comes to war stories. I'm glad that I did read it, even if I didn't love it. I think it might have been set a bit too far back for me to completely connect with it, and it did feel a little bit long at times. For people who do enjoy historical fiction, I would definitely recommend it to them.
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This book was heartbreakingly lovely. Readers of The Book Thief will also enjoy this book, with its view of World War II from the lens of children. It's also a valuable look into what Japanese Americans experienced in the internment camps. Such a captivating read!
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Did not really enjoy this title at all and probably should have not finished it but I usually finish them once I start.
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I don't normally read a lot of books in this genre (historical fiction or books magical realism elements in them) but when I saw the beautiful cover,  I thought that I would try and branch out and give this a try and I am so glad that I did. It was a beautifully written and emotional story about the friendship between a Japanese American boy and a French Jewish girl against the backdrop of WWII and I highly recommend it.
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Alex is appalled when he finds out his school project pen pal, Charlie, is actually a girl. He soon overcomes his reluctancy to write to her and the two form a sweet friendship through their exchanged letters. As WWII begins, this young Japanese American boy will experience the horrors of war first hand and hang on to the hope of finding his French Jewish friend. 

This story was written with a YA audience in mind but I believe adults will also be moved by this story. I loved the friendship that formed between the two main characters. Sweet and authentic. This story will absolutely wrench your heart in two.
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This is a well written book that tackles friendship and loss as well as some heavier themes such as racism and effects of war. The characters are very well written and this book will stick with you. It is heart wrenching, captivating, and breathtaking. Andrew Fukuoka does a phenomenal job with this novel and I am looking forward to reading more from him. I enjoy historical fiction and I would recommend to anyone else that does. Be prepared to cry and think about this book for a long time after you are finished. Would highly recommend.
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I was provided a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I wish I could put my finger on it-but something with this book just didn't ring true.  Though I generally find myself interested in World War II centered books, I never was able to forget that this book has been recently written.  I can't help but feel that some of it had to do with the modernity of the writing-some of the characters responses, both actions and spoken communication, felt much more like something that would happen on a sitcom or prime-time drama than what would have been done in the 1930s and 1940s.  
In addition, I wish this book had told more of Charlie's story.  I feel like the description led me to believe that we would see both of the main character's lives, but only learn of Charlie through her letters, which become sparse near the end of the book.
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I found the relationship between Alex and Charlie confusing at times but realized through my own kids, found this to be typically true in many ways. The ins and outs of their relationship was intriguing. It made me angry remembering all the bigotry and prejudice we have as a country have inflicted on others countless time. I would highly recommend this read. it brings history into perspective.
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4,5 stars!
This Light Between Us is a beautiful, heart-wrenching tale of friendship and loss. I sobbed and I laughed. This book has left a mark on me and will be on my mind for a very long time.

The friendship between Alex and Charlie was so sweet and touching. They were each other’s rocks and comfort. Both characters were very well written and complex. You can’t help but root for them to meet. I really enjoyed the letters between them and watching their friendship blossom over the course of the years. 

Although Alex and Charlie’s friendship was the focal point of the novel, the book also focuses on racism against the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Fukuda did an amazing job at portraying Alex’s pain and anger. The book was also well researched and the writing style vivid and gripping.

Overall, I really enjoyed this beautiful tale and will recommend this to anyone!
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I can't believe I never gave this a review. This book was so good. The growth and development of the main character was phenomenal. I've read a lot of books that take place during WWII, but never any that focused on internment camps, which is clearly a mistake I have made because the stories that can come out of them are extraordinary. 

I am stunned at the ability to retain hope throughout this whole book. Alex Maki, through a course of fate, develops a pen pal relationship with Charlie Levy, and their relationship develops into something more through the medium of letters. At least, it could be something more. I am amazed at the ability of the author to evolve their relationship from pen pals to friendship, which is clearly shown in the intimacy of the letters. It's not romantic intimacy per say, but they have created the ability to confide in one another with their concerns and worries, especially with the events that both are going through and which are so inextricably linked through the war. The character arc of Alex Maki is wonderful - from a small boy who adores his brother and misses his father, to a man and a soldier who is propelled by love and loyalty to Europe for the search of this girl he knows and loves. I could hardly believe that the character who returns from the war is the same character at the beginning of the story. 

I also liked the interesting parallel between Alex and his older brother, Frank. Alex idolises his brother, and while certainly Frank can be a bit volatile, he chooses to chase those emotions in a way that does not serve the way he wants them to. Alex, on the other hand, watches as his brother delves down this path, and ultimately chooses to chase his emotions in another way. When Alex eventually leaves the camp for training, it is more than a physical separation. They also emotionally separate as well, and they are clearly on two different paths. When Alex does eventually return, you can clearly tell the difference in the influence of these paths, and it is evident that Alex has surpassed his brother, in a sense. 

We do stop hearing from Charlie, and are led to believe the worst of things. Despite Alex's efforts, they are never united. Despite this tragedy, I am not upset about this ending. If they did eventually meet up, the story would then be about Alex chasing his love and that love can cure all, even through the Holocaust and internment. Because they didn't meet, it changes the meaning of the story. Even though his mission failed, we get to see this beautiful growth of a character from child to adult and what that can look like for different people. The Alex that emerges at the end of the book has gone through so much, and that's the real heart of the story. When he returns home and is reunited with his family, he is changed. So while yes, it is sad that he and Charlie never get to meet in person, I don't mind. And hey, maybe later in life he'll find out that Charlie survived, and fate will come into their hands once again.
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As a Japanese American during WWII, teenage Alex Maki's life begins to deteriorate until his family is sent to a detainment camp. Up to and during this time, he is pen pals with a Jewish girl in France, who is seeing the growing persecution of Jews around her. This friendship is his one bright spot in an otherwise scary, unpleasant time. They share their hopes, dreams, fears, and ideas about acceptance vs. revolt through their many letters back and forth. As the war rages on, both of their lives change in ways they can't imagine, and their strong friendship might not be enough to keep hope alive.

This book was incredible in some ways, and problematic in others. I really liked the history that was presented in this book, as well as the relationships. However, I had a difficult time with the style of writing and with the pacing.

I'll start with what I liked, which is plenty. I loved the juxtaposition of the two teenage pen pals, who most readers will understand going in are being set up for intensely difficult times ahead. While I have seen and read many books about the Jewish side of this, the Japanese American side was a fresh topic for me. It's easy to see the Nazis as evil because of what they did, but it's also easy to forget that America put their own citizens into camps (though not heinous as the Nazi camps, as is clearly recognized in this book.

There was a pivotal scene not far from the end that I was curious enough about to look up and found that it was historically accurate, which was really neat to me. And the author's notes at the end said it was one of 2 sources of inspiration for this book! Overall, I appreciated the history in this book.

I think my favorite parts of the book were the letters between Alex and his pen pal Charley. I would have been okay if more of the story had been told through those letters. I also liked the way a few other relationships developed throughout the story, particularly those between Alex and his brother Frank, and Alex and Mutt. Thinking of these, though, make me realize how light the book is on deep characters. Overall, those 4 are the only characters with any real depth, and none of them are particularly deep, besides maybe Alex and his brother.

This might be largely related to one of my biggest dislikes with the book. The story, which is presented as a personal narrative, has some strange inconsistencies in writing style. It fluctuates often between 3rd person limited and 3rd person omniscient (especially in the last third), which can at times make me feel like I have mental whiplash. Some of these sections easily could have been shown from the limited POV of Alex, rather than the broad POV of everyone involved. The story is also written in present tense, which, to me, is a strange choice for the omniscient POV. This caused the book to not flow as well as it could have.

Similarly, during the omniscient sections, there's a lot of telling, instead of showing. I'm really not a big stickler for the "show, don't tell" adage, but even I have my limits. I also would have preferred some translation for the French in some parts. This is a small gripe, because it didn't come up often, and most of the time I could guess what was being said from context. But during a pivotal scene near the end, I had to use Google to translate some phrases to make sure I knew what was being said, and I'd rather not have to leave the book in a moment like that. (There was also something said in German that the reader is led to believe was some kind of German curse, and it's not translated or even hinted at otherwise. I know enough German to know it was not a German curse, and was really quite emotional.)

So, overall, I did enjoy the book. It wasn't a favorite, but I also think that most of what bothered me was more personal preference than normal. I think most people will not be bothered by the writing style, especially. It is listed as YA, but I'm not sure how much it works for that crowd. Though I will say that the dialog at times is pretty immature, so that might work out well (it's also a little too modern, in my opinion, but I'm not expert). If you're a fan of historical fiction, especially related to WWII, you will probably like it.
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"Maybe loving a city, a country, is like loving a person: you love her despite her faults, you forgive her constantly, you always believe in her, fight for her, you never give up on her."

This was a beautiful and heart-wrenching story about a Japanese American named Alex from Washington State and a Jewish girl named Charlie from Paris, France who develop a friendship during a school pen pal assignment that lasts and helps to carry them through their childhood and the tragedies of WWII.

Alex and Charlie are easy to love from the beginning and your heart breaks for all of their hardships brought about by fear and prejudice. The author covers a wide range of the terrible events that occurred during this time frame from the Japanese internment camps to the Nazi concentration camps and everything in-between. Fukuda does a good job of portraying the racism and discrimination Japanese Americans experienced after Pearl Harbor. His detailed descriptions and way with words bring you right into the past, making it that more powerful and painful.

I loved reading that it was inspired by finding out that Anne Frank had an American pen pal and that a concentration camp was liberated by a segregated all-Japanese military unit; that the author wanted to combine the two. A huge thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I am now interested in checking out some of Fukuda's other works and have already added some of his additional titles to my TBR list.
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I really wanted to love this book, and there are some things I did love about it. However, overall, it felt rough and Charlie's character seemed more like a stereotypical girly girl rather than a fully developed unique character.

It's an important story to tell, but this one could have used a little more fine-tuning.
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This Light Between Us was an emotionally gripping and harrowing portrayal of World War II and Japanese American incarceration. I felt completely immersed in Alex's world, as if I were experiencing the events alongside him. The letters and bond between him and Charlie were sweet and a ray of light in the looming darkness, a testament to deep friendship. The parallels between Alex and Charlie's lives were striking and skillfully emphasized. The complexity of Japanese Americans' feelings about their citizenship/identity and serving in the military were also explored in a nuanced and thought=provoking way. Alex's resilience in the face of adversity and seemingly impossible odds was inspiring, and I'm glad he was able to survive and ultimately move forward with his life despite his great losses.
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It's a good book, it just wasn't necessarily for me. I definitely still recommend it to anyone interested in reading it.

I don't particularly gravitate towards World War (I or II) stories, but ever since Allegiance on broadway, I've been wanting to read more about the history of Japanese internment camps during World War II. I thought the author balanced the similarities and differences of being Japanese in America, and being Jewish in France at this time well, which was at least part of why the synopsis intrigued me. 

There wasn't anything I necessarily didn't like about this book, it just didn't pull me in the way I wanted it to, which I think is at least partly because the storyline jumped continents halfway through the story, with the storyline in America skipping a denouement. I think I would have liked had this been two different novels, one telling the story of Manzanar, and another telling the story of the 442nd regiment. It definitely taught me some things I did not know, and that's another thing I was hoping to get from this book.
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The Light Between Us is a well researched historical novel that focuses on Japanese interment camps in America, and the Japanese American 442 military unit. Both of these topics, aren’t widely talked about, and Andrew Fukuda, uses Alex Maki to illustrate the injustices Japanese Americans faced during WWII. 

At the beginning, I found myself getting lost in the pages. I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happened to the Maki family. Once Alex and his family come to the internment camp, the novel slowed to a more leisurely pace, and I found that my mind started to wander. When, Alex joins the army, the writing becomes more factual and at times it felt like I was reading a nonfictional book rather than a YA novel. The novel overall is good, I just wished it was more evenly paced.
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A timely story about WWII and the horrors of war. This is a beautiful yet tragic story that caused me to think. I recommend it to all.
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Thank you NetGalley!

This was such a wonderful and different look at world war 2 as it focuses on two young kids who become pen pals.  One is a Japanese American and one is a French Jew.  The Story is based off the letters and suddenly one day Charlie's letters stop coming and Alex knows something is wrong.  

Such a stunning and touching story about a friendship that formed by words on paper.
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Description from the Publisher:
"For readers of The Librarian Of Auschwitz, This Light Between Us is a powerfully affecting story of World War II about the unlikeliest of pen pals—a Japanese American boy and a French Jewish girl—as they fight to maintain hope in a time of war.

“I remember visiting Manzanar and standing in the windswept plains where over ten thousand internees were once imprisoned, their voices cut off. I remember how much I wanted to write a story that did right by them. Hopefully this book delivers.”—Andrew Fukuda"

My review:
This Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda absolutely broke my heart. I had previous knowledge of the numerous Japanese Internment Camps and what the people went through because I have an older friend who was three years old at Manzanar Relocation Center with his six family members. He refused to take the Reparation from the government because he was serving in the military when President Reagan signed the bill to give Compensation to all the survivors of the camp. He told me his story back in 2001. He is a patriotic man who wrestled with the two sides of his history just as Alex did. 

The physical descriptions of the center, the treatment of the Japanese people was hard enough to read than Mr. Fukuda throws in a penpal friendship between Alex and Charlie, who is a Jewish girl residing in Paris. Between the Relocation Centers in the States and the Concentration Camps in Europe as parallel settings, the story gets even more impressive and traumatic.  I have to be honest, I took a few weeks off reading this book because my empathetic heart broke so many times and I just needed a break from the pain. I am lucky that I can do such a thing since Alex and Charlie didn't have that option. 

The anger, the pride, the hatred were papable characters of their own and this story although aimed at YAs is a must-read for all age groups. I can't give Mr. Fukuda enough praise for his style of writing. The Epistolary style is my favorite writing methods and sometimes in other books I've read, it doesn't cover enough of the sense of smell, feelings, relationships, and setting. This book did not let me down. It is up there with The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis; Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn; Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society written by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. I know it is going to be a best-seller! I also think it would make a great movie. 

I want to give an example of a paragraph that was a description in top-notch form. Let me set the setting: Alex and his family (his mother and brother, Frank,) are entering the Internment Camp along with the other first wave of prisoners and they see bleak tarpaper shelters in the middle of a near-empty desert: “Never judge a book by its cover. This is what they tell themselves. But once inside, their worst fears are confirmed. The book is worse than the cover. The walls are just wood sheeting, splintery and thin. No paint or insulation or plaster covers them. The floor is composed of wood planks with large knotholes slapped together. No linoleum covering. Placed around the room are seven army cots, metal skeletons. None with a mattress or a pillow. An oil furnace in the corner, standing cold as a tombstone. No desk, no chair, no running water, no toilet. Only a single bulb, unlit, hangs from a cord dangling from an overhead beam. Beneath it, coarse army blankets are thrown in a pile. Frank walks to far side. The wall—no more than a thin partition—doesn’t reach the peaked roof, leaving a three-foot triangular space.” 

Can you see it? Do you feel the promise of a cozy shelter? Nope, neither did I. This one paragraph (which I hope the author didn't change) is just one of so many paragraphs that are even more detailed than this but I didn't want to use any of them as they would ruin the story. Trust me. This book is filled with brilliance for such a sad, sad, part of our history.  

This Light Between Us has some romance, and fun in it too because like in all situations of life there ebbs and flows, highs and lows and somehow you have to lighten the load just to continue living. This is definitely a must-buy-to-re-read novel so that you can find other tidbits of truth in it. I am giving this a 5 star even though I feel it has earned more than that.

Thank you to Netgalley, Andrew Fuduka, and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the opportunity to read this beautifully written book in lieu of my honest review.
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War is hell.

This is what Alex and Charley find out during World War II. They become pen pals as children, and continue to write as war breaks out. The worst part of their situations: Alex is a second-generation Japanese American, and Charley is a Jew in France. The Japanese, if you were remember your history, were rounded up and put into camps... and the Jews of Europe were rounded up and put into a more lethal kind of camp.

This book is an important book historically. It's important to never forget what people can do to each other. Whether European, American, or some other nationality... we don't always treat one another with kindness.

As far as the story is concerned, I like the characters. Charley is so full of enthusiasm and life, and Alex is your typical teenage boy. They grow up in this book, especially over the final years of the war. The characters drew me into the book at the beginning.

There were some parts of this book that were slightly exaggerated for effect (I looked up some of the details) but this book kept me wanting to read more. I wanted to find out what happened to these characters. We follow Alex's journey from Bainbridge Island, to a Japanese internment camp, to the war in Europe itself.

The following paragraph contains a slightly small spoiler. This book does not have a happy ending. However, war is often like that. I prefer books where the characters end up better off in the end, but that didn't happen. Especially in World War II.

I definitely recommend this book if you're looking for a book set in World War II with Japanese and Jewish characters. I really liked it and hope you do too.
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