Cover Image: Boy Underground

Boy Underground

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Member Reviews

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
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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
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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.
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A lovely book with central issues of friendships and race and discrimination based on race and class and sexuality set in 1941. This is my first book by this well-known author. I can see why she is well admired and her books highly sought. I’d recommend this book to a YA reader. For my taste, this was a bit basic and heavy-handed with tropes that fit too neatly into boxes without enough deep character development.  That said, it has a lovely ending and I appreciated the exposure of these issues taking place in one period of shameful American history. Heartfelt thanks to Lake Union Publishing for the advanced copy. It publishes on Dec 7. Coincidence??
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In 1941, Steven Katz is fourteen and struggling to be accepted at high school in the Owens Valley, when he makes a new friend, Suki Yamamoto, son of Japanese immigrants. He soon becomes friendly with Suki’s friends Ollie and Nick and soon they become a tight knit group. Steven knows his parents, wealthy landowners would not approve of his new friends, but they are disinterested in their son and what he’s doing, provided he’s not doing anything to harm the family name.  

One day in December the boys decide to hike up to a lake in the Sierra mountains and camp overnight. When they come back down the mountain the next morning their world has changed radically and nothing will ever be the same again for any of them. Pearl Harbour has been bombed and the US is now at war with rumours that all Japanese immigrants are to be sent to internment camps. More locally, one of the boys has been implicated in a serious crime that he couldn't have done and another of his group will decide to enlist in the army rather than wait around to be called up.

Catherine Ryan Hyde always writes such beautiful novels full of rich ideas and wonderful characters and this novel is no exception. The novel explores the racism against immigrants (sadly still prevalent today), making sure justice is fairly dealt and that each individual is respected for who they are.  The boys and their relationships are very sensitively handled. Steven’s relationship with his parents is cold and distant and he has to deal on his own with a lot of emotional upheaval and distress regarding the events affecting his friends as well as his own growing awareness of his sexuality. He is fortunate to find an empathetic mentor, the wise and wonderful Mr Cho, to help him deal with his doubts about himself and wanting to do what you feel is the right thing by your friends, despite what others think of you. This is a wonderful coming of age novel as well as a look back at a dark time in the history of Japanese Americans. It’s very fitting that the novel is being published on 7th December on the 80th anniversary of the Pearl harbour bombing.
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Friendships through the worst of times

Catherine Ryan Hyde is a favorite author of mine and I'll read anything she writes. This book quickly became another on my favorites list.

The story starts with a group of young teenage boys in 1941 right before the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Steven's father is a landowner in California near the Sierra Nevada mountains and Steven becomes friends with three boys who work the land - Suki, Nick, and Ollie.

After Pearl Harbor is bombed, Suki and his family are moved to an internment camp; Ollie joins the service; and Nick is falsely accused of a serious crime, while Steven tries to sort out his feelings about all that is going on and how best to handle the different situations.

I enjoy Hyde's writing style very much and each of her books, while encompassing different subjects and characters, still shines with her personal touch. I highly recommend this book and each and every one of her books.

I received this book from Lake Union Publishing through Net Galley in the hopes that I would read it and leave an unbiased review.
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This is the story of the unlikely friendship between 4 boys during WWII.  Suki and his family are forced into an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Ollie prematurely enlists in the army.  Nick is falsely accused of a crime.  And Steven is finding out more about himself as the central character and storyteller.

The story is told as 94 year old Steven is remembering his life from the year he was 14 in 1941 onward.  While the war is the backdrop and sets the timeline, this is not a war story. Instead, I’d describe this as a coming of age book where the characters develop deep friendships while standing up for what is right and determining their own truth.  The book tackles issues of belonging, loyalty, identity and loss.  Because the boys are teenagers for most of the book, there are times it feels a bit YA.  The epilogue is an absolute treat.
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Another wonderful effort by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I’ve read just about everything she’s written, and always remark, “this was the best one yet!” But I think this might be.
I loved the characters, Nick, Steven, Suki and Ollie. Each boy has his own story and own challenges, with uninvolved , neglectful parents, poverty, identity issues, and a war as well. Suki’s story resonates with me, since I researched and wrote my degree thesis on the Japanese internment. Although I was a young child at that time, I do remember the empty Japanese businesses in San Francisco, that never did reopen, and always questioned how this could happen to citizens in our country. 
Nick’s parents have abandoned him, mother leaving him with an alcoholic father who sets his son up to take the blame for the crime he committed. Steven’s parents don’t understand their son and his attempts to find how he fits in, so they basically ignore him, Ollie’s decision to leave school and join up, as Suki is relocated to a cam with his family. These coming of age boys, each going in a different direction, uncertain if they will have a future together. 
As usual, this prolific author plucks the heartstrings, with her likable characters, moving story and the lovable dog that always makes me smile. If this isn’t the best effort, it’s certainly close. I loved it! 
My thanks to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing for the ARC. All opinion’s are my own.
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Last year I became a fan of this author, and her books never disappoint. So when I saw this available on Netgalley, I rushed to grab it not only because I love her work but because this is historical fiction at its finest. Ryan Hyde has told the story based around one of America’s darkest periods that follows the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Through Steven, we meet Suki, Nick, and Ollie. Each of them has a path to follow. Unfortunately, some of those paths include some tough decisions for such young men.

I love the representation. I love how the author told Steven’s story, how emotional that story became, and how wrapped up in his future I became through the storytelling. My heart broke for Suki and Ollie and for the life Nick was forced into. All the boys are so richly detailed, and their stories so endearing that this makes for a hard read at times. I appreciate the research that went into this story. Boy Underground is a stunningly beautiful read. Thank you, Lake Union Publishing, for this read!
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Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Thanks to Lake Union publishing and NetGalley for the ARC of this book. I voluntarily read and reviewed this ARC all thoughts and opinions are my own. 
This book tells the story of Steven Katz. It’s 1941 and Steven is 14. Like most teenagers in any time period he struggles to fit in at school. When he meets Suki, Ollie and Nick at baseball they form an immediate friendship. 
They boys begin to play a hiking trip in to the Sierras Mountains in California, little do they know the world they are leaving on 12/6/1941 will be gone when they return. Pearl Harbor bombing changed everything for them. 
This story is so well written and is narrated by Steven in 2019 at the age of 94. 
This book comes out on 12/7/2021 the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.

I needed an uplifting book and Catherine Ryan Hyde is always the answer! This time, the author takes us to California in the 1940's and the story of Steven Katz and his three teenage friends. Although the majority of the story centers around Steven and his interactions with the other people in the story, we are given glimpses into the sentiment of people at this time in the days following Pearl Harbor and the rounding up of the Japanese population.

I absolutely loved this story and I couldn't put it down. I loved Steven and Nick and the resolution of their story was quite a surprise. Certainly a favorite of 2021!

Goodreads review published 04/12/21
Publication Date 07/12/21
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😞Bittersweet tale: coming of age challenges for 4 friends👬👬

I love good historical fiction that educates and moves me: Boy Underground totally hit the mark.

Touching and informative, this story of four teenage boys from a small agricultural town in California set at the opening of American participation in World War II was a moving page-turner.  Hyde takes four boys joined by a budding friendship that quickly ends in tragedy and separation.  War mobilization, racial prejudice and dysfunctional families are at work to part them but their friendship survives.  

I found Ollie's part of their tale particularly touching and Japanese-American Suki's experience a troubling look into America's quick rejection of innocent Japanese immigrants forbidden citizenship and their American-born children.  Both Ollie's and Suki's family members, down to frail Grandma Yamamoto and her little dog, are victims too.

But the narrator, young Steven Katz, fears his homosexual feelings would make him the biggest paraiah of them all if his secret is revealed.  He's there supporting his friends, going to great lengths to remain connected and true despite his parents' disapproval.  He ends up closest to young Nick, the eponymous boy underground who's falsely been accused of a serious assault, and quickly learns to love him, protect him, and work to exonerate him.  The climax of Steven and Nick's story was a bittersweet surprise for me.

Circumstances time and again upend their lives.  The story provoked sadness mixed with outrage but at no time could I stop reading.  I had to learn whether Steven and his friends could survive long enough to reunite and how their separate experiences would affect their band of brothers.  

Highly recommended.

Thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for sharing a complimentary advance copy of the book;  this is my voluntary and honest opinion.
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Boy Underground is a moving coming of age story set in Central California. I got this ARC ages ago, but something made me keep putting it off - even though I’ve adored pretty much everything this author has written - possibly my general dislike of World War 2 stories? With publication imminent, however, it was time to get to it - and I don’t know what I was worried about: it’s an emotional but ultimately heart-warming tale about love, friendship and overcoming small-town small-mindedness, featuring another memorably kind teenager - as most of her recent books have. It’s not a war book at all, although America’s treatment of its ethnic Japanese citizens during the conflict is a big part of the plot.

Steven Katz is fourteen and coming to terms with the knowledge that he is gay, a dangerous secret to have in a small town, when he gets to know a new group of boys at his school, Nick, Ollie and Itsuki. Steven is the son of a wealthy landowner while the others are farm workers’ sons, but they accept him as he is and are soon firm friends. When the boys go on a camping trip is early December 1942, they are unaware that the devastating attack on Pearl Harbour is about to change their lives forever.

Ryan Hyde has a knack for creating thought-provoking scenarios and challenges for her characters. The story is told by the much older Steven, now in his 90s, so we get flashes of what he thinks now. I’ll confess I found the frequent heavy foreshadowing to be unnecessary and rather distracting. The main plot is about his feelings for Nick, wrongfully accused of a serious crime actually committed by his own father, so forced to hide out in Steven’s family’s root cellar. Steven’s innocent yearning for Nick was beautifully conveyed and I was not sure at all how it would play out. His relationship with his awful family - and the way he comes to terms with and is able to reject and walk away from their prejudice - felt very real. It’s sad to think that even in these supposedly more enlightened times, not much has changed. 4.5 rounded up for the delightful epilogue. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union for the ARC. I am posting this honest review voluntarily.
Boy Underground is published on December 7th (it’s probably not a coincidence that this date will be the 79th anniversary of Pearl Harbour, but it is a coincidence that it would also have been my mother’s 79th birthday!)
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Oh, I can't seem to get enough of Catherine Ryan Hyde books! Love her gentle voice, telling powerful tales. "Boy Underground" was wonderful. Taking place in the 1940's in remote farmland in California, a group of high school boys are an unlikely bunch, yet truest of friends. Covering topics of prejudice, the Japanese camps, homosexuality, narrow minded small town, hope, despair, as well as friendship that is most dedicated, this book was heartwarming and uplifting. Thank you NetGalley, the author and publisher for the advance reader copy for review. All opinions are my own.
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Loved this book though it’s a clear, very sad, statement that we haven’t changed much in 100 years.  
Stephen Katz is a fourteen year old boy in CA in 1942, discovering who and what he is.  His father is a landowner and farmer that hires laborers and this puts a distance between he and his parents.  His old friends are all landowners but not nice or friendly to Stephen.  His mother is always trying to make him realize that what he does reflects on the family.  Stephen makes  new friends- Ollie, Suki, and Nick.  Ollie is an only child and his father is a laborer.  Suki is a Japanese American whose parents are not US citizens.  Nick is a boy from a rough family. Stephen meets them one day at school and these four become inseparable though Stephen’s mother keeps reminding him that what he does reflects on the family and he should be careful who he spends his time with.
The boys go on a camping trip the weekend of Dec 7, 1942 where everything changes. The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and the Japanese interment camps are created and Suki and his parents and grandmother are sent to the camp.  The entire town shuns Stephen because he continues to be kind and hang out with Suki. 
Nick’s father, Daniel, attacks a man at a bar and puts him in a coma on the same weekend. Then he has a man claim it was his son, Nick, that was fighting. When the boys get down off the mountain the world has changed.  Ollie joins the service, Nick goes into hiding to avoid arrest  for his father’s fight. Suki and his family know they will be sent to the War Relocation Centers and Stephen finds himself attracted and loving Nick.  This causes disruption of their friendships and division between Stephen and his family due to their bigoted beliefs.
I loved this book but what a sad testament that we haven’t changed our tolerance for acceptance for people as they are.
Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for granting me an ARC of this book.
#Netgalley #LakeUnionPublishing
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1941 America. Steven Katz from a well to do farming family, who are ultra conservative is different. He has found
friends which are not in keeping according to his mother of their status in the community. One of them is Japanese
origin, born and bred in America but with Pearl Harbour harsh treatment meted out to the Japanese on the one side and
his friend and his family get incarcerated in a camp. Another close buddy of his is on the run, because his own father
has lied to the police on a battery charge intimating to them that it is the son who is responsible when Steven knows
very well on the day in question four of them were on a hike. 

The actions of the adults in the situation draw the four boys closer and closer together. One volunteers for the Army
and on the journey out his ship is torpedoed. So then there were three. Nicky is hidden on the farm away from detectives
and kept till it is safe for him to try to find his mother who had abandoned him as a child. That does not end well
either. The Japanese are released eventually and Steven finds that the insularity of his family is holding him back and
he is just waiting for his eighteenth birthday to leave home. The fact that he has discovered he is homosexual and has
feelings for Nicky does not help the situation, and once his family knows this it certainly makes him very isolated. 

The story of a young boy facing responsibilities and pressures well before his time, facing situations which he cannot
imagine and trying to deal with them whilst at the same time being under his parents control being under eighteen was hard.
Steven did not openly rebel which would be the option of most. He bid his time, waiting for the opportunity to do what
he had to do.

A fabulous coming of age story, set in hard circumstances of family who were constrained by their upbringing and could 
never see the bigger picture. A family who preferred to lose their son, rather than acknowledge him for what he was.
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Catherine Ryan Hyde has a knack for writing books that stay with you. This is the third book I’ve read of hers. In 1941, a teenage boy is confused by his attraction to boys. He becomes friends with a Japanese boy at the same time Japanese Americans are being sent to camps. 

I was aware of the terrible treatment of Japanese Americans but only to a small extent. It is not the focus of the book but it is an important story to tell.

I love the writing style as it makes you feel as if you are in the story. This is a good book for anyone interested in a coming of age story.
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Boy Underground is a very beautiful coming of age story that takes place during WWII and ends at present day.
The main characters are Steven, Nick, Sukiyaki and Ollie.  
Family relationships
Catherine Ryan Hyde gives you a compassionate and compelling story about friends and love.
Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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I very much appreciate the subtle way Ms. Hyde let her readers know – early on – of the sensitive subject matter she dealt with in this novel.   She is one of my favorite authors and one whose concern for the humanity, especially of teens, is paramount in each publication.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  This review will be published immediately on GoodReads and with publication on Amazon.
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3.5 Stars

I often call author Catherine Ryan Hyde's books palate cleansers because they are usually very emotive and reliably good.  My usual reading genres are biographies and historical fiction, so it's nice to change it up once in awhile.  Whenever I see her books available, I automatically choose them to read.

This offering takes place in California during the commencement of WWII as Pearl Harbor is attacked on December 7, 1941.  The main character is Steven Katz, a young teen who is discovering himself.  His father is a landowner who employs workers to farm his lands.  Steven is unhappy at home.  He dislikes all the meals his mother provides, isn't close to his older brother Terrance, and also is detached from his father.  His mother seems to "wear the pants" in the family and has a laser focus on what's going on, with a lot of opinions to go with it.  The sense is that the only redeeming value Steven has on home is a roof over his head and tasteless food on the table.  

Steven has recently shed a set of family approved friends and found three others in Nick, Suki and Ollie at school.  He finds acceptance in their eyes without words and they embark on a mountain climb adventure which coincides with the Pearl Harbor attack.  There are many ramifications from the resultant war that ensues like internment camps for Japanese living in the US and siblings and friends enlisting in the service.  Matters are complicated further when one friend gets blamed for a crime he didn't commit.  Steven's self-discovery of his romantic preference is handled subtly.  

I found the theme of the false charge on one of Steven's friends tiresome and weak, and it did not hold my interest as it rippled throughout the book.  I'm glad I stuck it out, as I was surprised with a measured, unexpected and heartwarming ending.  

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for providing an advance reader copy via NetGalley.
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