Cover Image: Boy Underground

Boy Underground

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Member Reviews

I was hesitant to read this one at first, as there are A LOT of WWII stories out there, but I'm glad I overcame my hesitation. This is not your typical WWII story- it's much more about living during that time, with the war as a backdrop. The characters were interesting and engaging, and Hyde's writing was phenomenal. I'm not always in the mood for historical fiction, but when I am, I would definitely read more by her
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I am always in awe of how beautifully Catherine Ryan Hyde writes. She can write any genre or time period and still create a masterpiece. As you can already tell, I am certainly a big fan of this author.

Steven was a bit of a loner when he met Nick, Suki and Ollie. The 4 friends are from different worlds. Whereas Steven’s parents are farm owners, his friends’ parents are farm workers. However, these 3 guys had a major impact on Steven and the man that he became. This friendship brought him a lot of tears, sorrow but in the midst of chaos, Steven also found himself. I must say, I was truly proud of the man that he became.

The main time period in this story is the 1940s. So much was going on then. There was a war and young men were enlisting. On American soil, the Japanese were no longer welcome and they were taken away into camps. When I think of camps, my mind goes to the Nazi regime. However, the horrific profiling of nationalities was not just restricted to German occupied territories.

This is a beautiful, emotive story about friendship, family, loss, acceptance and personal growth. As always, Catherine brings characters and settings alive, she flawlessly did that again in this story.   I was captivated and flew through the pages like I haven’t done in quite a while.  What a thought-provoking, poignant read! Highly recommended!
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Got this book from NetGalley as an arc read and it was one of beautiful reads, of understanding, learning and more. 

Book is written in WWII United States of America when the Pearl Harbour was attacked. About a teenage boys who starts to understand and learn how to love and how to be the way you wasn’t meant but actually are. 

It was quite easy read, deep and touching. It always fascinates me when peace can write stories in so deep, and meaningful time era. 

Catherine Ryan Hyde told the story of Stevens life his feelings for Nick and his understanding that its not the feelings for friendship but something more.

Thank you NetGalley for this opportunity to read this book!
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Another superb, gentle, thought-provoking story from Catherine Ryan Hyde. She is especially wonderful with her characterizations of young people. and this one focuses on Steven as he comes of age in WWII, his complex friendships with kids from the other side of the tracks, his own conflicted emotions for one of them, being bullied  when he befriends a Japanese boy, and much more. Satisfying and thought-provoking.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance digital copy.
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I've come to count on Catherine Ryan Hyde for books that will make me think and feel, and this book was no exception.  This is a WWII era story of four teen boys who become friends in high school, and what happens to them when the US is brought into the war by the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  In a sense, it's a story of what it means to be "different".  On the surface, their lives are quite different, and each boy is considered to be "different" in one way or another.  And after Dec. 7, 1941 their lives take very different paths.  This is the story of what happens to each, as told from Steven's point of view. At once both heartbreaking and hopeful, it's a story of self-discovery and the different forms of survival.  
Many thanks to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for providing a copy for an unbiased review.
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'Boy Underground', by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

This book is based on the situation in a small town in the United States of America, between the years 1941 to 1945, that is the period of the Second World War, specifically from the time when the USA became involved after the attack on Pearl Harbour. 
The book narrates about the lives of four young boys, who were immensely affected during the events of this time period, through the perspective of the protagonist, Steven Katz. Steven is a fourteen-year-old boy, and has realized, for a while now, that he is gay. On a day when he is waiting to tryout for the baseball team at school, purely because of his father's insistence, he meets Suki, also fourteen years old. Suki is a Japanese-American. He quickly becomes friends with Suki, as well as with Suki's friends NIck and Ollie. There are clear indications of the fact that societally, Steven is more privileged, with his father being a landowner, while the parents of his friends are workers in different lands. The book doesn't delve into this beyond a certain point, largely explaining this as a plot point - stating that they never felt comfortable addressing this divide, even though Steven was brought into the fold of the friendship quite clearly and promptly. The tragic events unfold after the attack of Pearl Harbour.

Coincidentally, on the same day, Nick's father is involved in a brawl and places the blame on Nick, who then escapes arrest by Steven sheltering him in an abandoned root cellar for months - without sharing this with anyone, not even their friends. Suki and his family first endure racial discrimination by their town, and are finally relocated to an internment camp. Ollie, on the other hand, is older than the other three boys, and enlists - before he has to, but in order to make the choice of leaving when he can. Despite their separation from each other - excepting Steven and Nick who grow closer, even romantically - you can see closeness in the boys' friendship. 

The book certainly has relevant and moving themes, which are part of an important story of global history. There is conversation on how blatantly dismissive Steven's parents are about homosexuality, as they justify violence and brulatily against the queer in concentration camps during World War II. Steven, on his own, advocates justice and equality for all, staunchly remaining a friend of Suki and Suki's family, as one must. The plight of so many people during these challenging times is highlighted, and rightly so. As I write this, there are instances of wars everywhere, with civilian's deaths rampant, and political powers that be helpless in the face of it all. It is relevant to keep talking about all of these stories, because humanity's best hope, ironically, is humanity itself.

That being said, I certainly feel like the book could be a lot more detailed. On some level, there were numerous elements coming into play and not all of them were justified satisfactorily within the storytelling. On one hand, Nick's father blamed Nick for a crime he himself committed, on the other it's stated that when Steven talked to him, to find out why, Nick's father did love him. While I don't disagree with the sentiments themselves, the nuance could have been depicted better than solely in the statements that wind up the storytelling. It would have been nicer to give more thoughts for the reader to connect to. I would have liked for a lot of emotions hidden within the storylines to have come out and stay with me. Simply put, I think perhaps the storyline felt a little rushed, and could have been slower, longer, more gradually developed.
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It’s hard growing up, even harder when you are a fourteen year old boy finding he is gay in a society that thought this was an aberration.

The time of this story, is a bit before the advent of WW 2. We are transported to a simpler time where hard work was expected and life seemed hard but regulated.

The main character Steven Katz has just aligned himself with a new group of friends, including a Japanese boy Suki, a boy, Nick he is attracted to and Ollie. They have hard lives but it is Nick and Steven who seem to be burdened with cold, unloving families. They are drawn to each other, looking for love that is so absent in their lives.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor and the actions of Nick’s father throw this small group of friends into turmoil as one goes off to war, one to Manzanar, and the third to be hidden in a root cellar.

This is truly a story of love, the need for companionship, the longing for closeness, and the learning that life offers choices but also delivers pain.

It is most basically a story of friendship. What does constitute a friend? It is a person who makes you whole, and who encourages you to embrace all that is given to you.

I enjoyed this tale mainly because the main character was such a steadfast young man. The topic of Nick's homosexuality is handled with grace and compassion for the times this boy lived in. 

My thanks to Catherine Ryan Hyde, Lake Union Publishing, and NetGalley for a copy of this story which was published on December 7, 2021.
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Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan Hyde
This is the story of four boys (Steven, Ollie, Nick and Suki) during the early 1940’s and eventually modern times.  The early 1940’s were a volatile time in California as the US was readying for war.  It is also a coming of age story.  It is about familial dysfunction.  It is about understanding biases and prejudices.  And ultimately - friendship and love.
Catherine Ryan Hyde has a way with diction that gently wraps the reader in a blanket of peace and understanding.  Her novels are always poignant and thought provoking.
This is definitely a 5 star read!!!!!
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Catherine Ryan Hide does a great job with feel good stories. She is an author I will look for when I need some reassurance that people are still helping others. This was an excellent story about young men looking out for each other. Will continue following this other.
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Ms. Hyde has done it again! This is a beautiful coming of age story. This story was emotional and very thought provoking.  
Many thanks to Lake Union Publishing and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I am a devoted follower of Catherine Ryan Hyde- I just love her style of writing and her storylines never disappoint- this one included! Her dialogue and matter-of=factness about emotions and feelings just speaks to me. This storyline had a lot going on and I was never bored. I was very invested in all of the characters. One small twist at the end that I'm still not 100% sure I understood but it didn't take away from the story for me.

4.5 stars. Can't wait for her next one!

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This story really took my heart!!!  The friendship the boys had & their support of each other was so heartfelt!!! I really enjoyed this read!! Thsnk you NetGalley!!!
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I flew through this book. I really enjoyed while reading the whole journey. Boy Underground will be one of my top 5 reads of 2021. I strongly recommend this book and author to all devotees of quality fiction.
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Beautiful story.  Loved this book!  Loved the character portrayals!  I wanted to be friends with all of these boys!!  Thank you!!
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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.
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Catherine Ryan Hyde never disappoints, and her latest novel is no less beautiful than her others, an emotionally wrought and all consuming read!
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This was was an amazing story told in the POV of a man reliving his teenage years and the friends he made right before WWII began and kept.

Steven Katz grew up as a privileged son of one of the biggest farms in the valley outside of Fresno, California. When he was 14, he walked away from "other socially acceptable kids like him" and made friends with sons of the farm hands' kids. They didn't care that he was different and had different feelings for other people; they just accepted him. His own family didn't even see him.

Steven, Ollie, Suki, and Nick all go camping in the mountains on December 6, 1941. When they came down the following night, the four teens had no idea that their world was about to completely change. Nick's father never picked them up, he's known as a drunk. So they walked until they were able to hitch a ride with someone Suki knew. That's when they all realized that things were different. There were signs on store windows that said "No Japanese." When Steven went home that night, he found out that Pearl Harbor was bombed and the US was at war.

In the months to come Ollie enlisted early, he was the oldest of them; 17. Suki and his family were sent away with only the clothes on their backs to a place in the mountains. All Japanese people were sent there until the war was over. Nick's father, Daniel, was accused of beating a man when he was drunk, sending him into a coma. Daniel pled guilty, then sobered up and said it was his son he was covering for. Nick was with the boys in the mountains. Even though all 3 of them, Ollie had already left for basic training, gave the officers the same story, they didn't believe him. 

In the middle of the night, Nick came to Steven's house asking for help, the police were coming to arrest him the next morning and send him to reform school. So Steven hides Nick in the root cellar on the back of the farm for months. Steven comes to see him every night, which is the highlight of his day. He knows that he's in love with Nick, but not sure if its reciprocal.

Ollie dies on a ship. Suki gets sent away, leaving just Steven and Nick. After a few months, Nick is thinking of going to his Mom's in Arizona. He's lost weight and his skin is gray due to being underground and without sun. He promises Steven he'll be back for him and then they will have a future together somewhere else.

After the first letter comes months later from Nick with no return address, he panics. Steven's not sure if it was deliberate or an accident on Nick's part. So he waits. When he finally gets another one several months later, he packs up everything and takes a bus to Arizona. But when he gets there, Nick isn't there anymore.

A few months after Steven's 18th birthday, Suki and his family get released and he goes up to pick them up. Nick had written him a letter a few years ago telling him not to wait for him anymore. To find love elsewhere. It devastated him. So he asked Suki if he knew anything about it. Suki was shocked at that. When Steven drops the family off at the bus station and leaves, Suki gives him his address on an envelope that had Nick's handwriting on the other side. He gave him Nick's address in NY. Steven drove home, packed everything up and his father made sure that Steven saw how he felt about his way of life.

When Steven gets to NY, he finds Nick's apartment but he's afraid of what he'll find behind the door. When a woman holding a baby steps onto the balcony and calls his name, he's shocked. It's Nick's wife. 

An amazing story, A definite must read!!
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I’m a long time Catherine Ryan Hyde fan but it had been a while since I’d read anything by her (and I had thought I’d maybe read the ones worth reading until this blurb caught me eye!). That said, it took me an awful long time to get into this. Not because it was uninteresting, slow or lacking; in fact I can’t tell you why I wasn’t drawn in at first, all I do know is that though I wasn’t rushing to get back to this, I had no desire to stop reading either. But unfortunately that lost this one a star for me. Now, once I was enthralled, it was game-over and I couldnotwouldnot stop. 

I was invested in everyone and everything: a WWII historical fiction that is a little different from the usual, giving very accurate information about lesser known war atrocities whilst also being not at all about the war. Okay, okay, that isn’t true, but it is about MORE than the war: about ordinary lives whilst a war is ongoing, not the war as all-encompassing (though admittedly for a child living in California the war wasn’t all encompassing, not compared to those in Europe, but I digress). 

The ending to me (this renowned ending-hater) was also simply brilliant; a perfect end to this life story without over (or under) doing it, without cliche and without grandeur. 4 solid stars for Boy Underground.
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I received an advanced copy of this text by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I will definitely use this with students. Japanese internment during WWII is at the heart of the story and Hyde does a FANTASTIC job integrating history into her story. Highly recommend!!!
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While coming of age during the beginning of World War II and beyond, Steven becomes friends with some kids from the other side of the tracks, as they say, and to complicate matters he develops feelings beyond friendship for one of them. Then another of his friends is sent to an interment camp and Steven is heckled and bullied for being friends with a boy from Japan. This book follows Steven’s life and does a good job of portraying some of the things that he is thinking and feeling as he deals with all of this and more. This is a tastefully, understandingly written book dealing with these deep subjects and more. I am glad that I read it and got a glimpse of the life and the struggles that persisted during this time period. I would highly recommend this book. Thank you to NetGalley for the advance read copy.
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