Cover Image: Boy Underground

Boy Underground

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Catherine Ryan Hyde is a favorite author of mine and this novel did not disappoint, A coming of age story set in a world of war. This was a very emotional read for me. I loved the characters and enjoyed the historical setting.
Was this review helpful?
Boy Underground is my first time reading Catherine Ryan Hyde’s work, and I’ve fallen in love with the author’s style of story-telling. 

Ryan Hyde’s skill and craft is clear as she has created fully developed characters who are unforgettable and stole my heart. Their journeys of self-discovery and realization make the tale even more beautiful and memorable. Even Steven’s parents are well-etched, reflecting on the times the story is set in. Steven and Gordan Cho remain my favourites from this beautiful tale.

I loved reading the epilogue, set in 2019. It left me in tears, yet wishing the story would go on.

The author has well-handled many themes in this emotional tale- familial relationships, poverty, identity issues, racial discrimination, social injustice, war and sacrifice.

The only complaint I have is regarding the foreshadowing, as I found it a little distracting. But it’s a minor issue compared to the powerful narration and sensitive handling of various themes in this book.
This is a historical fiction based on the second world war. The war acts as a backdrop, but plays an important role in directing the story from behind the curtains and holds the narration together. The friendship between the four friends who are inseparable until war tears them apart forms the central narrative. Each boy has his own story, filled with challenges and difficulties.

Boy Underground is a beautifully crafted story of acceptance and tolerance. It is well written, and character-driven, tugging at the heartstrings. Any reader who enjoys fictional stories based on war would love this.

Thanks to Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC of this novel. All opinions expressed are my own.
Was this review helpful?
It was 1941 in the small rural town in California when Steven Katz became friends with Ollie, Suki and Nick at school. They were all sons of workers on the farms around the area and three of the four boys were only fourteen. Ollie was seventeen but the group were all close friends, camping, hiking the nearby mountains and just hanging out. But that all changed when the US joined the war effort. With Suki being of Japanese descent, he and his family were made to relocate to an internment camp at Manzanar. Ollie enlisted in the army, prepared to do his duty for his country, while Nick had to disappear after his father told the police it was Nick who committed a crime. Nick’s betrayal by his father hurt him badly, but Steven was prepared to help him stay safe.

As the years passed and life continued, Steven turned eighteen the day war ended. After Steven picked up Suki and his family from the internment camp and took them to the nearest bus stop, it was time for him to make his own life. His first plan was to find Nick whom he knew lived in New York. What would happen when the two friends met once again? What would the future look like for the young man who had been a farmer’s son, and an outcast in his family life?

Boy Underground is another exceptional novel from Catherine Ryan Hyde. I only recently found this author, and in the few of hers I’ve read, not one has disappointed. She’s a wonderful writer, who certainly knows how to weave a story to captivate her readers. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, from the four main characters to the poignant ending. Highly recommended.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Catherine Ryan Hyde has created a brilliant coming-of-age story in Boy Underground. The story is told in a flashback by ninety-four-year-old Steven Katz. For me, the story reminded me of Stand by Me at times. Steven, the fourteen-year-old son of wealthy farmers goes on a camping trip in the Sierra Mountains, with Japanese American, Suki Yamamoto. Also fourteen, Nick Mattaliano, who is being raised by a single father who is a drinker and Ollie Franklin a baby-faced seventeen-year-old. On December 6, 1941, Suki’s father, dropped the boys off to start a long climb to their camping site. The next day, Nick’s father does not show up to pick them up and they need to get back to town on their own.  The world has changed while they were gone with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Hyde explores the relationships of the boys as Suki will end up in an internment camp with his family. Nick will be blamed for something his father did and go into hiding with the help of Steven in an underground room under a shed on Steven’s farm. Ollie joins the service. I flew this book. So many emotions. I was angry with certain parents’ actions, cried over certain events these boys faced, laughed at times, and loved how the author ended the book.

I encourage you to read this beautiful story of friendship, survival, and coping with loss, This is my first book by This author, but it will not be my last. My thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. The opinions in this review are my own,
Was this review helpful?
Author Catherine Ryan Hyde has an uncanny ability to compelling depict the struggles of adolescents and teenagers with compassion, empathy, and credibility. A number of her books are coming-of-age stories and her latest, Boy Underground, is among them. 

The story opens in the fall of 1941, and focuses on Steven Katz, age fourteen, who is growing up on his family's farm in the vast agricultural wasteland situated between Fresno, California and the Sierra Nevada mountains. His family's farm is large and employs many recent immigrants. A lot of his father's farmhands  are the parents of kids with whom Steven attends school. His mother, in particular, is very concerned that the family maintain what she deems appropriate relationships and their standing within the community. So Steven's friendships with Nick, Ollie, and especially Suki, do not meet with her approval.  She says, "If your family owns land and other families work that land. It makes them different from us." For Steven, her message is clear. But he recognizes that he is incapable of living his life in accordance with her standards.

That's not the only reason Steven feels disconnected from his family. He has discovered something about himself that he knows he cannot share with anyone, especially his parents. It caused him to distance himself from his old group of friends. Their free use of epithets targeting boys like him became too much to bear.

He announces that he wants to go camping with his new friends -- Suki, Ollie, and Nick -- and elicits his parents' grudging permission. His father overrides his mother's concerns about winter approaching the rough mountainous country into which they plan to hike, noting that Steven has not experienced much hardship in his young life and prophetically declaring, "It'll make a man out of him." 

The four boys depart early on December 6, 1941, on a trip that cements Steven's burgeoning feelings for Nick. Other life-altering events take place while they are away. In the moving first-person retrospective narrative Hyde employs to convey Steven's story, he wonders about the timing. They return from the camping trip to a changed world, puzzled when a Japanese man warns Suki to be careful. They observe a handmade sign on the window of the tavern Nick's father frequents: "Japs Keep Walking." At that point, Steven recalls, he realized they "had reached out new era of darkness." 

The next morning, Steven's mother tells him about the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The day after that he learns that Nick's mother left the family years earlier and his father has been arrested for severely beating another tavern patron who was rendered comatose. He initially confessed, but recanted the next morning. Worse, he claims he only lied to protect Nick and can produce a witness -- who Steven inadvertently discovers has a vested interest in lying for Nick's father.

The world is at war and before long, the friends are separated. Ollie enlists and immediately after completing basic training, he boards a supply ship transporting troops and equipment to the Pacific theater. Suki and his family are forced by the U.S. government to leave everything behind, including his grandmother's beloved rat terrier, Akira. And Nick, facing charges for a crime he did not commit, decides he must go on the run.

Steven theorizes that a vacant root cellar on his family's property will make a perfect temporary hiding place for Nick. It's cold, dark, and damp, but he cannot bear the thought of losing Nick, maybe forever. He convinces Nick to hide in the cellar because he knows Nick is a true friend and dares to hope that he feels the same way Steven does. Neither boy can envision Nick having to live underground indefinitely, joined by Akira, with Steven delivering him food, books, and sneaking out of his bed to visit the root cellar in the wee small hours. As he conceals Nick from the authorities -- as well as his parents -- Steven is determined to find a way to convince the police that Nick is innocent since the boys' initial statements were insufficient to keep the police from making Nick a suspect.

Hyde compassionately depicts the trajectory of Steven and Nick's relationship, as Steven serves as Nick's lifeline and protector, especially when Nick's health is jeopardized by his living conditions. Steven innocently and naively believes that his future lies with Nick, and his inner dialogue about himself, his feelings about Nick, as well as his family, and the current state of the world is relatable, resonant and, at times, heartbreaking. As time passes, Steven knows that he must find his own place in the world -- a place where he can be who he really is and be accepted. Will Nick be part of his future in the way he longs for? Or at all? 

Hyde's well-researched story line takes readers into Manzanar War Relocation Camp, one of ten sites where both Japanese immigrants (who were legally prohibited from seeking U.S. citizenship) and Japanese-Americans were interred during World War II, injecting details about life in the camp, and what Suki and his family endure. She also credibly portrays Steven's confusion and outrage about the treatment to which Suki and his family are subjected, as well as his guilelessness and wonder about the world as he gradually realizes the extent to which others will go in order protect themselves and their own interests. At the outset, Steven has led a life of relative privilege, but understands what it is like to be different as a result of the behavior of and verbiage employed by the group of friends from whom he distanced himself and his family. He has always felt like an outsider, even in his relationship with his parents and older brother. At the age of fourteen, nearing adulthood, Steven is becoming increasingly confident about his identity, as well as the fact that he will not be accepted by society or the people who claim to care for him if he reveals himself. Ryan illustrates Steven's observations about and reactions to others who are also deemed different by society, most notably Suki and his family. He is faced with choosing to be like his mother, concerned about the opinions and judgment of others, or follow his heart and behave a manner that he inherently perceives to be right. And accepts that his choice might carry consequences such as being branded a "race traitor" and called other ugly names, and the necessity to sever ties with his family, acknowledging that because of who he is, he will never be able to earn his father's approval.

Boy Underground is a beautifully crafted tale about acceptance and tolerance -- of oneself and others -- and learning to draw strength from within rather than without. Once again, Hyde's signature style elevates the story with her creation of memorable, fully developed characters and illustration of their journey to discovering and embracing strength and resilience they have no idea they possess until life boxes them in and demands that they confront uncomfortable truths. Those characters, especially Steven and Luke, are sympathetic and Hyde's fondness for them is evident on every page. Through his experiences with Luke and Suki, Steven learns not just about himself, but about romantic relationships, friendship, and that being labeled different by society does not equate with being less than.

Boy Underground is a must-read selection for fans of World War II-era historical fiction, as well as readers who enjoy life-affirming coming-of-age stories populated by unforgettable characters. It is easy to see why Hyde considers it one of her favorite books. It is sure to be one of her readers' favorites, too.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. 

I enjoyed this book. Embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know much of anything about the Japanese camps in the US during WW2. Definitely learned a lot, and am interested to learn more. Didn’t love the way the book ended, but it was a very sweet story.
Was this review helpful?
EXCERPT: We bounced along on that rutted dirt road, saying exactly nothing. It was cool, just after dawn, and the day was clear but no colour at all. Like steel. I had my back up against the tailgate, facing the mountains, watching them grow closer as we bumped along. They had always been there, as long as I had been alive, but only as a background for my world. They never seemed entirely real. More like a movie set, or one of those theater plays with a painted backdrop to make it seem as if the stage has the depth of a real outdoors scene.

My stomach jangled with fear at going up there on foot. They looked big and powerful and unforgiving, and that made me feel small.

I thought about what my father had said. How it was rough country up there, and how I didn't get that yet. How I hadn't had much in the way of hardship. It gave me a chill.

Then I remembered the words that came right after.

My father saying, 'It'll make a man out of him.'

My mother countering with, 'Unless he dies first.'

It brought a shiver that I think the others might have seen if they hadn't been watching the view.

Still, I knew that whatever awaited me, there was no backing down now. And I wasn't sorry about that. I was scared. But I was still ready.

ABOUT 'BOY UNDERGROUND': 1941. Steven Katz is the son of prosperous landowners in rural California. Although his parents don’t approve, he’s found true friends in Nick, Suki, and Ollie, sons of field workers. The group is inseparable. But Steven is in turmoil. He’s beginning to acknowledge that his feelings for Nick amount to more than friendship.

When the bombing of Pearl Harbor draws the US into World War II, Suki and his family are forced to leave their home for the internment camp at Manzanar. Ollie enlists in the army and ships out. And Nick must flee. Betrayed by his own father and accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he turns to Steven for help. Hiding Nick in a root cellar on his family’s farm, Steven acts as Nick’s protector and lifeline to the outside world.

As the war escalates, bonds deepen and the fear of being different falls away. But after Nick unexpectedly disappears one day, Steven’s life focus is to find him. On the way, Steven finds a place he belongs and a lesson about love that will last him his lifetime.

MY THOUGHTS: Steven may think that he is ready to face whatever is ahead, but he is wrong. No one could possibly predict or be ready for the events that take place. Life changes fast.

Like Dicken's 'A Tale of Two Cities', it is about to become both the best of times, and the worst. Before they return home, the lives of all four boys will have changed irrevocably, taking them in directions they never could, nor should, have imagined.

Steven Katz is one of four fourteen year old boys at the centre of this story, which is told entirely through his eyes. He is a boy who feels at odds with the world and those around him. He just doesn't fit in until he meets Suki, Nick and Ollie, and a friendship is formed that will last their entire respective lives.

Catherine Ryan-Hyde is an automatic read for me and I looked forward to Boy Underground, expecting 'an emotional and uplifting' read as promised. But it never happened. I felt strangely detached from the story and never quite became fully invested. In fact, I found myself skimming in places and, once or twice, debated not finishing. I'm glad I did finish, but the fact that it took me four days to read this speaks for itself.

I loved the friendship between the four boys, the sense of solidarity and their need to protect one another. But at certain points that should have produced a strong emotional response in me, I felt little or nothing. Maybe it's me . . .

I felt the thread involving Nick's father accusing his son of a crime that he himself had committed to be a weak link in the story. It never rang true and seemed to drag on interminably.
I became bored and frustrated by the improbability of it.

The family dynamics of this era were interesting. Other than the Yamamoto's, none of the boys had close family relationships. Steven's family is very insular and remote from one another. They don't talk. Their characters are rigid and dogmatic. There is no obvious affection between family members, and 'what people think' and their own social standing is extremely important to them.

There is a wonderful, wise character by the name of Gordon Cho who rapidly became my favourite and a surrogate father/sounding board for Steven.

I would have liked this more, I think, had we been able to see into the other boy's lives. I would have loved to know more about the Yamamoto's lives in the internment camp; how Ollie felt as he set off for war; and Nick's experiences as he struck out on his own.

'The older I get, the less I know. I mean that in a good way. It seems that most of the trouble in this world stems from the things that we're sure we know. Now that I'm old enough and experienced enough to know that I know nothing, the world is a constant, pleasant surprise. And the things that I allow life to bring me are consistently better than anything I might have sought - or even imagined - for myself.' And while I am sure that the world is not entirely 'a constant, pleasant surprise,' this is a sentiment that I can definitely relate to.

Boy Underground was a good read, but not a great one, although I seem to be an outlier on that point. As I said, maybe it's me . . .

⭐⭐.8

#BoyUnderground #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @amazonpublishing

T: @cryanhyde @AmazonPub

#comingofage #historicalfiction #sliceoflife #WWII

THE AUTHOR: I am the author of more than 30 published and forthcoming books. I'm an avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan-Hyde for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinion.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage
Was this review helpful?
Whenever I see a new book from Catherine Ryan Hyde, I do not hesitate to grab it.  I will admit that Boy Underground dealt with some uncomfortable issues, but the author handled them with dignity and compassion.  It's a coming-of-age story suitable for young adults as well as adult readers.  The young Steven Katz appeared to be the most mature member of his family.  How fortunate he was to strike up a friendship with the wise Mr. Cho.  It was interesting to read about the young people growing up during World War II  who were robbed of their carefree teen years.  Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the advance copy to read and review.
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars

Captivating, beautiful, heartbreaking storytelling.

Steven is kind, sweet, and balances naivety and maturity beautifully. He avoids confronting his family but never betrays his beliefs, his friends, or himself. Steven manages to be vulnerable with others and strong for himself, which can be incredibly difficult. Even more impressively, he does this while going against popular opinion in his very small town. I love the connection he forms with people who others have turned against – not because he’s trying to protect them or prove something, but because he doesn’t allow the prejudice of others to alter his perception of the world.

Even though Boy Underground is told only from Steven’s perspective, the other characters are still complex, interesting people. It was also refreshing that while Steven is perceptive and empathetic, he isn’t magically capable of telepathy, so his insight into others is believable. In addition, his realistic understanding of the other people around him made the narrative feel honest and possible. Another refreshing change is that instead of instalove, we get authentic teenage crushes that change and develop naturally.

Boy Underground is a very touching story about a difficult and complicated time in history, and a lot of complex topics are addressed in an honest and unflinching manner. Steven often feels too good to be true, but that’s mostly because it’s hard to comprehend his ability to maintain his perspective while living in this small town, especially while growing up with the type of family he has. I appreciated the story told here, and the direction it took was surprising, unique, and undoubtedly unpredictable at times. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, I’d definitely recommend a read.
Was this review helpful?
Trigger warning: Homophobia, emotional abuse and racism. 
Oh my goodness! Boy Underground, by Catherine Ryan Hyde, is simply one of the most beautifully breathtaking books that I have ever read.  While the main focus is on young love, it's the perfect mixture of love, loss, heartbreak and redemption.  The main characters are likeable and well fleshed out.  Although it's a work of fiction, it feels so real that it reads like an autobiography.
Steven Katz, the main character, is being raised on the family farm in rural California.  Due to racism and classism, his parents don’t approve of his new group of friends, Nick, Suki and Ollie, in part, because they're sons of field workers.  He's dealing with a lot more since he's started to realize that he has deeper feelings for Nick and Suki than he thinks he should. 
As the United States becomes active in World War II, Ollie enlists in the army instead of waiting until he's called to serve. Then Suki's family is forced into an internment camp.. And to top it all off Nick is forced to flee because his own father accuses him of a crime that he, himself, committed, Steven offers to hide him in his family’s root cellar and becomes his only lifeline to the greater world.
As the war worsens, Steven and Nick become closer and Steven starts to accept himself.  Then Nick disappears and Steven’s main goal becomes to find him.  Along the way, he realizes where he belongs and learns enough about love to last him the rest of his life.
Was this review helpful?
I have never read anything by this author before, but was intrigued by the premise of this book.

It is a wonderful read and I was totally captivated. It is a story about a group of friends in America, which is set against WW2. Steven has never fitted in, but the book starts at a point where he is clearly starting to know his own mind. He does not get on with his family and seems a loner at school until he spots Suki, Nick and Ollie and quickly starts to tag along with them. 

Steven is different from these three boys, he comes from a wealthy family, whereas the other boys have harder, more impoverished lives, but this does not stop a friendship quickly forming. Then the war interrupts their usual way of life. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, I was shocked to read about the internment of anyone from Japan in camps in the US. In hindsight, I can see that they would have been classed as the enemy, but this was something that I did not know - or at least had never considered. Suki and his family are torn away from all they know at this point in the novel and Ollie feels compelled to enlist and join the war.

The novel then turns to the (mis)fortunes of Nick, whose own father allows him to be charged with serious assault instead of coming forward to confess to the crime. Nick turns to Steven for help and the books takes on a much more intimate tone. Steven's sense of difference is exposed as he admits his attraction for Nick, and this seems to be replicated. Steven's dedication and selfless acts to conceal and protect his friend are admirable.

It was the ending that really resonated with me. Nick leaves to seek his mother and plead for her help, Steven tries desperately to follow him. The story relocates in New York with unexpected and unpredicatable consequences for their relationship.

The end of the novel shows how old friendships die hard. This is a book which shows how unpredictable and unfair life can be but how indomitable the human spirit can be in the face of all sorts of adversity.
Was this review helpful?
Another beautiful emotional story from Catherine Ryan Hyde! All of her books go through the gamut of emotions, from joy to heartbreak, and this book was no exception. This was a WW2 historical fiction novel but it was also so much more than that. It was about finding yourself and figuring out what’s worth fighting for. I loved it and would definitely recommend it! I received a free copy of this book from netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
The author has done a wonderful job again bringing a group of people together and crafting a heartwarming story.

A 14-year-old Steven shows up for baseball practice and is captivated by a young Japanese boy trying out. Neither one wants to play baseball so they leave and Suki introduces Steven to his friends, Nick and Ollie, leading to life long friendships. Steven's father is a landowner, Suki's and Ollie's dad works for another farmer and Nick is being raised by a father who doesn't take a lot of interest in son. They take a camping trip up into the mountains and it is a magical time for all of them but when they come down from the mountain the world has changed. Pearl Harbor has been attacked, we are at war and Nick's father has been arrested for putting a man in a coma.

These boys have an incredible bond. Steven helps Nick until he can clear his name. Suki is put into an interment camp at Manzanar and Ollie goes off to fight in the war. The story for the most part covers 1941 to 1945 and the epilogue is 2019 when they are in their 90's. I would have liked to know more about what they did in the interim but that is a tribute to the author that she made me want more.

Thank you to Netgalley and Lake Union for my copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
In a Nutshell: A brilliant coming-of-age story with the perfect balance of character and story development. This will be one of my favourite reads of 2021.

Story:
1941. Fourteen year old Steven Katz is the son of wealthy landowners in rural California. Because of certain personal issues, he has moved away from his old friend circle and found new friendship with Nick, Suki and Ollie, the sons of farm workers. Needless to say, his parents don’t approve of this new friendship, and not just because of the class differences. This is December 1941. When Pearl Harbour is bombed, the lives of the four friends gets upended in a way that they never foresaw. Will they have a future together after so much of turmoil in their lives?
The entire story comes to us in the first person perspective of Steven Katz and is written in flashback from a contemporary time. Thus we get to see not just what happened but also Steven’s musings on what he now feels about what happened then.  This adds to the personal touch of the story as you actually feel that the character is speaking to you through the pages. 

I have read many books this year that include too many social themes within their storyline. And this overdose creates a saturation of sorts. All these authors should learn from Catherine Ryan Hyde about how themes should be tacked on to a story without going over the top. Each of the four main characters deals with specific one or two issues. And the focus stays only on those. There is no umbrella solution provided for all the problems of the world, nor is there a diluted stance presented on matters unconnected to the story. I loved how she built her themes in a very logical way, keeping the problem within the natural flow of the storyline rather than forcing it in just to make a social comment.

The characters in the book are impeccably written. They aren’t perfect; they are as real as can be. As the story comes to us from Steven, you learn the most about his feelings and struggles. The way he matures out of his initial under-confident personality and learns to speak up for himself is hearttouching. His friends too will leave a mark on your hearts and minds, though not all of them get equal focus in the story. Nick, who has a father that loves his freedom more than his son, and Suki, whose only crime is that he belongs to a Japanese family, will touch you with their sincerity and values. Ollie and his bravado in enlisting though he is underage will leave you simultaneously awed and bewildered.  The titular “boy underground” can stand for any of these four teenagers in the story, as all of them struggle with some repression and are forced to keep some part of themselves “underground”/hidden, whether physically or emotionally.

The attack on Pearl Harbor plays a crucial role in this story though it isn’t directly included in the narrative. Rather, the storyline dwells more about the aftermath of the bombing on these people who weren’t even in Hawaii. (I’m not surprised that the release date for this book was set for 7th December 2021, the 80th anniversary of the bombing.) This insight into how the laypersons’ life in America was affected by events happening so far away deserves credit as it is written very sensitively and honestly. 

The only minor complaint I would make is that the foreshadowing goes a little overboard at times. It does created an added hook as contemporary Steven knows things that 1941 Steven didn’t know and even we readers don’t know. So the curiosity factor improves greatly. But when there’s foreshadowing again and again, you tend to lose track of how many things to keep in mind. (Obviously, this is a problem only for those who like to keep the foreshadowed content in mind for future reference and “Aha!” moments, i.e. readers like me!)

Overall, this is a beautiful novel that depicts what the bildungsroman genre should truly be about. Read it for its storyline. Read it for its beautiful writing and plenty of cherishable and thought-provoking lines.  Read it for its characters. Read it to see a boy coming of age not just in calendar years but also in personal strength and maturity. Read it to see how one can live a dignified life while staying true to one’s character and identity. 

4.5 stars from me for this amazing read.

My thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC of “Boy Underground”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.
Was this review helpful?
This is an utterly compelling story. At times it is tragic, full of despair and heartbreak, and at others, unbelievably beautiful, heartwarming and uplifting.
It is an exquisitely written coming of age story that deals with friendship and love, homophobia and racism. Steven Katz feels he has been born into the wrong family. They are status-conscious, bullying and bigoted, while he is empathetic, attuned to the world and open to new ideas.
Steven is not particularly happy at school either, but his life improves immensely when he meets Suki, Ollie and Nick. The four schoolboys become close friends, and Nick, in particular, changes Steven’s perception of himself, and alters the course of his life.
An excellent read.
Was this review helpful?
Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan Hyde will leave you with a tangle of feelings. It makes you happy, sad, heartbroken and optimistic. It's a wonderful story. This is one author I don't hesitate when I see a book by her. I snatched that baby up because I know I want to read it. 

Coincidentally, this book releases on December 7 which is the anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. If you've read anything about the internment camps in the United States for the Japanese during WWII then you will know a little bit about this book. It is about four friends that are inseparable until the war tears them and their families apart. This book addresses many topics that will make you stop and think. Maybe it will change how you feel about things. 

I wasn't sure, after I learned what this book was about, if I really wanted to read it. I'm glad I did. I've had this happen a couple of times lately. I've learned that you can't judge a book by its cover, subject matter or the synopsis. Do judge it by the author and how well they have handled sensitive subjects in the past. I'm so glad I didn't turn my back on this book. I still know I want to read anything Catherine Ryan Hyde writes! 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from #LakeUnionPublishing and #Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Was this review helpful?
Catherine Ryan Hyde is one of my all time favorite authors so there is not a surprise that I was blown away by how great Boy Underground was! She has an exceptional talent for such insightful and introspective views of people and life that really make you pause and think about for a while. I actually find myself thinking about things she has written in her books for YEARS (such as every time I pay it forward in the drive thru of my favorite coffee chain). She also always creates characters that are so easy to want to read about, and ones that are so REAL. We read about some heavy topics in her newest novel and reading them in the eyes of a teenager was eye-opening. Steven and his new friends experience firsthand the pain, emotion, and wrath of prejudice, racism, abuse, homophobia and more. It is heart wrenching and emotional to see what these boys face and tackle, though it does make them become stronger, more mature, more wise (although maybe too soon as they are so young still). Boy Underground is like no other book I have read and it is such a moving and IMPORTANT book to read. I rarely give five star reviews but this one was easy to rate that way. I have no doubt that this will become a huge bestseller and will hopefully be on film. Incredibly moving and important novel.
Was this review helpful?
Boy Underground takes place from 1941 to 1945 but the war plays only a peripheral role in this book. The story centres around Steven Katz who is 14 when the story begins. He lives on a farm in California with his mother, father and older brother. He has difficulty fitting in and doesn't have many friends until he meets up with Suki, Ollie and Nick.

I became totally involved in this story, the characters and the events that shaped Steven's life. He comes across as much older than his years as he reflects on many facets of life with great maturity. His parents are very distant and offer him little support plus his mother sounds like a terrible cook, worse than me! The story, told by Steven in 2019 at the age of 94, is extremely well written and was a pleasure to read. Highly recommended. 4.5 Stars!!

I wish to thank Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for the opportunity to read an ARC of this novel. All opinions expressed are my own.

Available December 7, 2021
Was this review helpful?
Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan Hyde is the first book by this author I have read, and I must say, she has a way of putting a spin on a story. It has several threads: a gay youth struggling to find his place; Japanese internment; the class struggle between owners and workers in California's agricultural community; and just plain wartime in the 1940s. Steven is homosexual. It is internalized, but it is there. His friends are rude, judging and calling names, so her decides to find some new friends. He selects a group of three, one of whom he sees at baseball tryouts. They are all sons of workers; he is the son of an owner. Suki is Japanese, which turns out to be difficult in 1941; the other two, Nick and Ollie, are white but lower class. It all begins when they take a winter hike into the mountains. It is just overnight but when they return the world has changed: the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and the father of one of the boys has beaten a man so badly he is in a coma and not expected to live. Life has changed for them all. 

The Japanese internment is the worst thing the US government has ever done, out of a growing list of horrible things. It is touched upon here, although not in great detail. The misery is there: it permeates the story. The story is primarily about Steven and his journey to finding a life/family for himself, as the life he was born into doesn't fit him. He is gay, but that is not the only problem with his life. He leaves home at 18 and never looks back. It is not easy, and it is certainly not fun, but he succeeds, although not as the reader may project. It is a gripping story. One I'll not forget soon.

I was invited to read a free e-ARC of Boy Underground by Lake Union through Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are mine. #netgalley #lakeunion #boyunderground #catherineryanhyde
Was this review helpful?
I always enjoy a good coming-of-age story; it’s one of my favorite tropes. And this, my first novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde, is a beautiful example — the tale of a teenage boy’s awakening, both to his sexuality and to the flawed, complex world around him. 

Steven Katz is 14 years-old and living on a farm in rural California when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. The event marks a watershed for Steven and his close-knit group of friends. Ollie enlists in the army. Suki is sent to an internment camp with his family. And Nick is forced into hiding (in Steven’s root cellar), after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. 

With everything he knows shifting on its axis and a narrow-minded family he’s unable to turn to, Steven must find the courage to navigate his own path and stand up for what he believes in — a tough ask for a boy of such tender years. 

Ryan Hyde’s writing is fluid and immersive, her descriptive passages headily evocative, transporting the reader to the mountains and deserts of the Sierra Nevada. I loved the historical setting and that the author does not shy away from exposing unpleasant truths about a shameful period in American history. 

But what I most enjoyed about this reading experience was the unusual first person narrative, which is delivered, not in the present, as one might expect, but as recounted by Steven’s 94 year-old self. 

We thus get a voice that is not only mature but also quietly reflective, with memories visited through a lens sharpened by decades of wisdom and experience. It speaks with keen understanding — of a gauche, lonely teenager, his search for a meaning to life and his place in it; of the invaluable lessons learnt from the unlikeliest of people; and of the role of fate in one’s destiny. 

The epilogue, narrated in the present, is an unexpected and delightful denouement to Steven’s story — a solemn but uplifting testimony to the bonds of friendship,  the resilience of the human spirit and the power of love. It moved me to tears.
Was this review helpful?