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Boy Underground

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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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Many thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for gifting me the latest novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde - a must-read author for me.  4.5 stars rounded up.

In 1941, Steven didn't fit in at home or at school.  Then he met a group of friends who became tight - Ollie, Nick and Suki.  Steven's family were landowners; the other boys' dads were field workers.  Steven also began to realize that he had feelings for Nick that went beyond friendship.  After the attack at Pearl Harbor sent the US to war, more things changed for the friends.  Suki and his family were sent to an internment camp, Ollie enlisted in the war, and Nick was charged with a crime he didn't commit.  

Every book Catherine Ryan Hyde writes touches emotions, teaches you, and makes you really think..  Even though you know that the characters all wouldn't be so self-aware and say just the perfect things, every challenging topic is handled in such a wonderful and insightful way.  This book deals with racism, classism, homophobia as well as parental abuse and neglect.  But it also deals with the power of friendship, family, loyalty, and love.
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Catherine Ryan Hyde proves again that she can take the sensitive subjects and write about them compassionately.  In 1941 in a small town near Fresno, four mismatched fourteen year olds become friends.  On the cusp of war, they didn’t know the way their lives were about to change.  A story of social status, prejudice, war and forbidden love.  A story that is both heartbreaking and heart touching.  Steven is the savior of the group and tries his best to help each of his friends through some very difficult and heart wrenching circumstances.  He feels lost and out of place, even in his own family and in the end the person he realizes he needs to save most is himself.
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Absolutely beautifully written.. Catherine Ryan Hyde has this insane ability to weave deeply emotional stories and making the reader feel every single emotion of her characters. She has you feeling their confusion and pain, while bringing you on their journey of discovery and growth. This particular book nearly had me in tears several times as I walked through the events of the characters days and experiences.
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I received a free electronic ARC of this historical novel from Netgalley, Catherine Ryan Hyde, and Lake Union Publishing.  Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.  I have read this novel of my own volition and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work.  I am pleased to recommend Catherine Ryan Hude to friends and family.  Her backgrounds are faithful to the times and her protagonists are warm and well rounded.  

It is 1941 and the world is on the cusp of war.  We follow four boys in a farming country in central California. Steven is the son of a farm owner, and Suki, Nick, and Ollie are the sons of farmworkers. The boys are inseparable despite the displeasure of their parents, and his friendship with American-born Suki, whose parents were Japanese immigrants,  offends not only Steven's parents but the majority of the community as well.  The boys are 14, with the exception of Ollie who is 16 and has his parent's signature on his enlistment papers.  With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the nation is building retreats for Japanese citizens regardless of their nationality or loyalty, where they will be housed for the duration of World War II.  Within weeks, Ollie is leaving for boot camp, and Suki, his parents, and his grandmother are 'removed', to be housed in the community of Manzanar in the nearby Sierra Mountains, complete with barbed wire and armed guard towers.  Steven agrees to keep Suki's grandmother's little dog as they can't take it with them to the internment camp.  Nick is in a precarious situation - his mother left years ago and resettled in Arizona, and his father is basically the town drunk.  When his father beats a man into a coma at the local bar, he blames it on Nick and gives a friend his vehicle to ensure that he will back him up with the local police.  When the boys find out there is a warrant out for Nick, Steven hides him in a dugout beneath an unused shed on the farm, bringing him food and water, medicine, and warm clothing. Steven is uncomfortable with the feelings that he has for Nick, but doesn't understand them or want to look too closely at them. When he finds an address for Nick's mother, he sees him on his way, carrying Suki's grandmother's little dog.  The world seems to have scattered the friends far and wide.  Can they keep their friendship together while they are so out of touch?
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“Some things are impossible for us to change, and any time we try to do something impossible, it’s going to wear us out. It saps our life force. Our energy. Maybe you hate a thing more than anything. But it’s what is. To accept it means to see that it is that way, and that it won’t be another way no matter how much you hate it.”

Boy Underground is a novel by best-selling American author, Catherine Ryan Hyde. In the fall of 1941, fourteen-year-old Steven Katz starts high school and makes some new friends. Suki (Itsuki) is slim, beautiful and funny, with Japanese parents. Ollie (Oliver) is little, but stylish and smart. Nick (Nicholas) is tall and well-built, and Steven is instantly smitten. He just hopes they’ll overlook his stupid questions and let him hang out with them.

By early December, they are ready for a hike into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Steven’s mother Beth, who is more concerned with social standing than her son’s happiness, queries why he’s no longer with his (socially acceptable) friends-since-kindergarten: he doesn’t tell her their increasing xenophobic, homophobic comments have put him off. His father, Marvin is an authoritarian land-owner who approves of anything that will make a man of his younger son. 

The four friends enjoy their hike, but when they return, the world has changed. A far-off event and a local one have an enormous impact on their lives. Anti-Japanese sentiment in the wake of Pearl Harbour puts Suki and his family under threat of detention is an internment camp while America’s participation in the war puts seventeen-year-old Ollie under threat of the draft. 

Closer to home, Nick’s drunken father has beat a man into a coma, then uses his son’s close likeness to shift the blame onto him, the threat of reform school making Nick a fugitive from the law. Which is how, several weeks later, Steven’s quota of nearby friends reduces by two thirds, to the boy he is hiding underground. 

At school, no-one talks about their missing Japanese classmates: “A complete vacuum of words. It was as if those boys and girls had never existed. I guess what they said about it was exactly what they wanted us to think. Nothing. We were being asked to think nothing of it. We were being asked to rewrite history and act as if we had never known them.” Steven’s continuing friendship with a Japanese boy has been noted in town with disapproval (except for one important exception), but he refuses to deny his friend, even if it results in his ostracism. 

Ollie’s early enlistment worries his friends: their concern is vindicated. Keeping Nick safe and well in the root cellar isn’t easy, but Steven is prepared to make any sacrifice to help his friend, and his efforts to prove Nick innocent are not in vain. In his encounter with Nick’s father, the guilt and fear he sees somewhat enlighten Steven about what seem inexplicably cruel actions.

Ryan Hyde saddles this young protagonist with several heavy burdens, but while his unsupportive family fails to understand him, his friends do not: correspondence from his absent friends gives him courage; his connection with Nick grows stronger every day; and when Nick finally departs, good advice comes from an unexpected quarter.

Ryan Hyde’s characters never fail to steal into the reader’s heart and there may be moments when tissues are required. As always, she gives them wise words and insightful observations: at fourteen, Steven already understands “If you have shortcomings, I fully believe it’s better to look them in the eye. Pretending otherwise gets you nowhere.” Ryan Hyde gives the reader another wonderfully moving and uplifting read. 
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing.
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A coming of age story of Four young boys, Ollie, Nick, Suki and Steven. The year is 1941 in a small town in rural California. Steven is the son of a prosperous landowner, and the other three are sons of fieldworkers. Steven's parents do not approve of his friends.

The four boys go on a camping trip in the mountains, when they return nothing is the same and some big changes happen. Ollie enlists in the Army, Suki and his family are sent to Manzanar relocation camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Nick's father accuses him of a crime he did not commit.

Steven hides Nick in a root cellar at his farm for weeks until one day Nick is gone.
Steven feels alone and he wants to find Nick as he has feelings for him. When he goes to look for him he finds his life's destiny in New York City.

It's a story of boys growing up and realizing that they never know what will happen in the world and learning that they cannot change what happens, they can only let it be and live in the moment.
It is about the boys but it is mostly about Steven and finding his identity and his place in life.

It was a different read, but it was a good read. I thought that Steven's parents could have been a bit more understanding but that is how some families are. I think that if you would like to read something a bit different that the normal you might like this book.

Thanks to Catherine Ryan Hyde for writing the book, to Lake Union Publishing for publishing it and to NetGalley for making it available to me.
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4.5 Stars

This was a such wonderful, heartfelt story, and I absolutely loved Steven!

Steven is the son of a prosperous landowner, and he has an inseparable group of friends. Only problem is Steven’s friends are sons of field workers, and his parents are worried how him associating with them will affect their reputation.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, everything changes and Steven’s friendships are turned upside down. Suki and his Japanese-native parents are forced to live in an internment camp, Ollie enlists in the army, and Nick goes into hiding when his father blames him for a crime he didn’t commit. When Nick turns to Steven for help, he immediately offers to hide him in his parents root cellar. For months, this arrangement is kept a secret, and while Steven acts as Nick’s only connection to the outside world, his feelings also deepen for Nick.

When Steven finds that Nick is gone one day, he is determined to find his friend and leave the only home he’s ever known, a home where he no longer feels accepted. Along the way, he discovers so much more than he was looking for. I think for the first time in his life, he felt like he was somewhere he belonged, and though life didn’t turn out quite how he had hoped it would, it was nevertheless a happy ending.

Highly recommend this book!
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This is a good book, but also terribly sad and heavy. CRH's stories are often on the heavy side morally and emotionally, but this one was more so than the others, in my opinion. While in most of her stories, we often have a young person, most of the times a teen coming of age and learning to exist in a world with a lot of adults who make questionable or poor decisions, there is usually one or two big figures who are moral, good and steer the young person towards the "light", so to say, but in this story... The only moral light comes from the main character himself (there is a very small positive influence from a neighbor, but he's a super minor character who appears very late and for a very short time, nothing like it usually is in CRH's stories). So what I'm saying is, pretty much every adult who would be able to help in any way, shape or form, is either complacent or outright evil in this book, and things constantly go from bad to worse to utterly awful. It doesn't let up. The book is depressing.

With that said, I still think it's a good story to read - just know that if you have anxiety issues right now, maybe read it later. But also, it talks about horrible things like the internment of the Japanese during WWII and racism and prejudice, and not only racial prejudice (the main character is a teen finding out he's gay).

There's also that bit where since the start of 2020 we've all been feeling like things are in a constant downward spiral and nothing will ever get better anymore, cause we're constantly getting bad news about something, and no one's optimistic about the future anymore. Reading this book gives you some kind of perspective - at least, it did for me. Yeah, things kind of suck now - but they kind of sucked a lot more back then. In fact, some of the things sucked SO MUCH that a lot of people didn't know how the sun would rise ever again (say, after everyone found out about what REALLY happened in concentration camps in Poland.) And yet, people somehow persisted. The world rebuilt. Life went on and recovered. And that gives you perspective, and maybe even hope.

I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
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Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Thanks to @lakeunionbooks and @netgalley for the gifted e-Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Teenage boy Steven Katz may be the son of a landowner, but he’s never felt his place in 1940’s rural California. Then he meets a group of friends and finally feels he fits in. Then the war starts and affects them all. Ollie goes to war, Suki is sent to a Japanese internment camp and Nick has to go on the run.

I love books about friendships between teenage outcasts, especially when there is a historical aspect to it like this one. We are in the main character’s head and he is way ahead of his time and age. I loved his thought process and his bafflement at his family, who really just didn’t get it. This was a sentimental and meaningful read. I also learned about World War Two and how it affected many of our citizens here in the US.

“Somehow being with my family felt like living in some kind of soundproof glass booth. I could see they were right there, yet, in another way, they felt utterly unreachable.”

Boy Underground comes out 12/7.
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This is such a unique perspective of the Second World War. The war is almost a backdrop to the story for it happens far away, and yet it’s also absolutely pivotal and intrinsic to the plot. For this is not about a war field or refugees in the way that other more famous novels are, it’s about how separatism affected the everyday person left behind. How racism and prejudice filtrates to a small town and the fear that it instils in each resident. 
Mostly though, it’s a story about friendship and loyalty and it’s absolutely brilliantly written. Heartbreaking and wonderfully uplifting, this is the most gorgeous coming of age novel. I thoroughly recommend you pre-order this now or download while it’s still on kindle unlimited.
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Catherine Ryan Hyde has such a talent for pulling the reader into the world with the characters. In this mesmerizing tale, the narrator is looking back upon his life. He begins his story with finding camaraderie with three other high school boys.  Set in California in 1941, during WW2, Steven, Itsuki, Ollie and Nick come from different backgrounds, each grappling with unimaginable changes in their world. I highly recommend this story that is told with wisdom and heart.
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Boy Underground is an engaging coming-of-age story set in a small farming town in California in 1941.  Steven Katz, the central character, is a 14-year-old gay teenager whose family owns a large farm.  He becomes friends with Ollie, Nick and Suki, all of whom are in families who work the farms in the area.  The boys bond on an overnight camping trip in the nearby mountains, and when they return from their trip, the world has changed:  Pearl Harbor has been bombed and the United States has entered WWII.  Each of these four friends then find himself at a crossroads:  Suki, a Japanese-American, is relocated; Ollie enlists; and Steven hides Nick from the police, who are looking for him for a crime he did not commit.

All in all, this is a beautiful story about friendship, racism, homophobia and injustice.  The ending is beyond fitting, a moving and emotional one that definitely wraps things up quite well.  I definitely enjoyed this read.
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Boy Underground is an amazing read and I highly recommend it! So many difficult topics and emotions (coming of age, classism, racism, sexual identity, homophobia, dysfunctional families, WWII internment camps) are handled with skill and realism.

This story of the friendship of four teenaged boys is set in the agricultural town of Owens Valley, California from 1941 through 1945. It is told from the POV of Steve Katz, who in 2019 at age 94 is looking back at his life. There is a mixture of his insights at age 94, and the ages he is as the story unfolds.

Owens Valley is largely divided into two groups of people; the land-owners, and those who work for them. The land-owners want to ensure the divide is complete with no socialization between the two. Steve doesn't agree with this thinking which makes him feel that he doesn't fit in anywhere; his family seems totally foreign to him, and he is teased, bullied, and ignored at school because of his views. When he meets Suki, Ollie, and Nick (all sons of farm-workers), the four become close friends. In their early days together, they have no idea that their friendship will be life-altering for each of them.

I love Catherine Ryan Hyde's writing style - her words seem to flow so easily, yet they invoke such powerful images and emotions that readers know that they've been chosen with great care. Her characters are so fully developed that they seem real, and her story lines are always thought provoking. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors!

My thanks to Lake Union Publishing for allowing me access to an ARC of this book via NetGalley. The book is scheduled for publication 12/7/21. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and are freely given.
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I don’t know how Catherine Ryan Hyde writes such wonderful books twice a year, but she certainly does it! This is another winner. The setting is California during World War II, starting with Pearl Harbor. The main themes are racism and homophobia. The story is told through the eyes of Steve Katz. He is 14 at the beginning of the book and is just coming to the awareness of his sexual preferences. He also becomes friends with a Japanese boy so we see his reactions to what happens to Suki and his family. As with her other books, this one has a strong emotional component to it. I loved everything about this book and highly recommend it to others!
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Steven Katz has just started high school in 1941, he meets three teenage boys Suki, Ollie and Nick and they become best friends. Steven’s father owns a large farm, he feels the odd one out in his family and his older brother Terrence is his mother’s favorite. The boys go on a camping trip, when they return the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbour and his parents are very unhappy his friendship choices. American enters the war, and the Yamanto family are sent to an internment camp in California called Manzanar and older Ollie joins up. 

Steven returns to school, nothing is said about all the empty desks and everyone acts like nothing has changed in town. This makes Steven mad, then his friend Nick’s accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Steven’s the only person who can help him and he hides him in his parent’s root cellar. Nick and Steven are teenagers, and feel very confused by their feelings towards each other. Nick leaves, Steven waits to hear from his friend and his relationship with his parents continues to determinate.

Steven leaves the farm when he turns eighteen, he sets off to find Nick and he does. Steven discovers that life doesn’t always go as planned, he takes a big risk leaving home, he has to find his own place in the world, and work out his true feelings. The one thing that never changes is the bond between the friends, they continue to keep in touch over the years and as the decades go by.

Boy Underground is a story about friendship, social injustice, growing up during a war, young men going off to fight, making the ultimate sacrifice, and it’s a coming of age story. Catherine Ryan Hyde has a way of making you connect emotionally with the characters in her books, and she has done this once again. I recived a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, it's very moving and five stars from me.
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Excellent book!  This is a coming of age story of three young boys; each with a story of their own. The book kept me interested until the end.  The author made me feel like I knew the characters and I couldn't wait to find out how their story would end.
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Every single Catherine Ryan Hyde novel is different, yet each one contains similar themes.  These include adolescent children in difficult, abusive or painful situations, often suffering at the hands of adults, parents or societal problems.  In each, there is a strength within that helps them thrive and survive.  Also in each, there is one person who makes a difference by behaving in an alruistic and kind way.

And yet in each moving and beautiful book, we find out about free climbing, dogs, horses, veterinary medicine, art. and any number of other interesting subjects we may not know a lot about.

Boy Underground is a historical novel about the days following Pearl Harbor and its effect on a 14 year old California farm boy.. Steven Katz lives with unloving, uncommunicative parents.  He has no friends until he meets a Japanese boy at baseball tryouts and his life changes.  Suki introduces him to Ollie and Nick and the four become fast friends.

As always in a Ryan Hyde novel, all the characters are three-dimensional and very real.  The interior monologues of the boy are also accurate and relatable.  And her descriptions of climate and scenic beauty will paint a picture in your mind.

I don't know how she can produce such a succession of wonderful books so frequently, but I for one am a loyal follower, waiting impatiently for each new one. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an  honest review.
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