Cover Image: Boy Underground

Boy Underground

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

BOY UNDERGROUND by Catherine Ryan Hyde is a heart-wrenching and emotional story of friendship, love and conviction that hooked me from the first page and never let go. Catherine Ryan Hyde always writes engrossing, thought-provoking and moving stories and this one is no exception. Set in rural California in the 1940s, four teenage boys form an unlikely bond that will change their lives forever. Fourteen-year-old Steven Katz is the son of successful landowners. Against his parents’ wishes, Steven befriends three boys, Nick, Ollie and Suki, who are sons of local field laborers. Despite the dramatic differences in their wealth and class, the boys become inseparable. But in the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan, nothing will ever be the same for any of them. Steven struggles with his complex feelings for Nick and the growing tensions within his family. The story touches on many important themes such as racism, class discrepancies and sexual orientation with honesty and compassion. The epilogue was perfect and tied everything together. I loved this uplifting and poignant novel and I can’t wait for whatever comes next from Catherine Ryan Hyde. Thank you to the author, Publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy.

Was this review helpful?

I loved this story! It will stay with me for a long time. A story of friendship, growing up, and learning about the world.

Was this review helpful?

Once again, Catherine Ryan Hyde has written a wonderful novel that deals with challenging ideas in an accessible, easy-to-understand way. In Boy Underground, she writes a compelling narrative that touches on racism, classism, and ignorance and prejudice surrounding the LBGTQ community.

The book begins in 1941, when 14-year-old Steven Katz befriends Ollie, Suki, and Nick. Steven seems to have it easier than his new friends because his father is a landowner while their fathers are laborers on his or surrounding farms. His parents would not approve of his buddies, but they pay so little attention to him, they don’t even know who his friends are until the war manages to separate them for various reasons.
Highly recommend. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this novel, which RELEASES DECEMBER 7, 2021.

Was this review helpful?

A beautifully written coming of age story set during World War II in rural California. World War II is not the central focus, but is more of a backdrop for the story which is more about friendship, family, and prejudice. Steven Katz, son of a prosperous landowner, has made friends with three boys who all share a very different background than Steven: Ollie, Nick, and Suki (Itsuki). Steven is put in some very difficult situations that no one his age should ever have to deal with. And while the focus is on Steven, all three of the other boys have huge problems facing them as well.

This was both a heartbreaking and heartwarming story. The book kept me riveted. I truly enjoy this author's books and I feel this is one of the very best, and she has written many.

Thanks to Lake Union Publishing through Netgalley for an advance copy. This book will be published on December 7, 2021.

Was this review helpful?

Until this book I hadn't had the pleasure yet to read a book by this author. Her writing spoke to me in several ways - her choice of words, the way she tells this story from Steven's pov, the feelings and insecurities involved when growing up. In fact, the emotions over all were pretty palpable. Heartbreaking at times, but never too much. Most of them were presented matter of factly, but that didn't mean I couldn't feel them throughout the book.

Steven is only 13 when the story begins. He lives in California in the period just before the war. He befriends a couple of boys - Ollie, who is older, Nick, who comes from a one-parent household, and Suki, who is of Japanese descent. Then the attack on Pearl Harbor happens and the lives as they knew them, change forever.
The author touches several sensitive subjects. One being the relocation of the Japanese people by the American government after the country was dragged into the war by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Suki and his family are forced to relocate to one of those camps - not allowed to take anything than the things they could carry. It's something I hadn't known about, but found very interesting.
When Suki leaves, and Ollie goes into the army, Nick is the only one of his friends that's left. But he has problems of his own, and Steven wants nothing more than to help him the best he can.
He's long found out he's attracted to boys, and Nick is the first boy he falls in love with.
Coming from a high class family himself - his father owns one of the largest farms around - Steven is told more than once that anything he does, will reflect his family and the way people see them. But he refuses to hide his friendship with Suki, and when one day at the dinner table his father mentions how he doesn't mind when Hitler would kill all the 'faggots' as well, it's one of those moments that Steven realizes his family won't ever accept the truth about him.
Their family dynamics were odd to say the least. His parents hardly seemed to care for him or his whereabouts as long as they didn't reflect upon them. Their dinner conversations were often painful, as well as a lot of things his mother - or his father - said to him. Careless and an obvious lack of proper love and interest. As if he just happened to live in the same house, share the same space, instead of being their child. Most of the time they didn't even know what he was up to, even if he was only a 13/14 year old boy. But Steven has a bright look on things - he's curious, he wants to learn and know. Observes people and their actions. He searches for answers to the questions about life.
I loved Steven as the protagonist in this story. There's no way you could not feel for him and admire him for the things he does. For his - maybe naive - bravery.

If you are interested in history, specially the years involving the war, and like a well written, poignant coming of age story, I believe this could be your book. I really enjoyed reading it. It's well paced and the writing is captivating.

Recommended read!

Was this review helpful?

Catherine Ryan Hyde is one of my top 3 favorite authors. and she continues to AMAZE me with her creativity and excellent character development. So much dont forget her books or the characters in them! Steven is a 14 back in 1941 and is at that shaky confused age while falling into situations with too much responsibilities all while the disaster at Pearl Harbor is crumbling and the subsequent entry of America into WWII. I could not put this book I surprised...NO~ I adore Catherine's writing! Thank you!
I highly recommend this book!

Was this review helpful?

Another solid read by Hyde. She goes to places few go to and is always on point. Well written and absorbing. I enjoyed this

Was this review helpful?

What a fantastic story. I hate to admit that I knew nothing about the Japanese interment camps. I am absolutely horrified that our country did this to American citizens. I am upset that my school didn’t teach this, or that if they did it was glossed over so quickly that I lost it. This story of Steven and his life was amazingly beautiful. Catherine Ryan Hyde always steals a piece of my heart with her books. I will recommend this to everyone I know. Historical fiction at its finest. Thank you to Netgalley for this fantastic early read.

Was this review helpful?

Yet another great story by the talented Catherine Ryan Hyde.
Her stories are always unique, and this book is no exception.

I admired Steven for his ability to love the friends in his inner circle, and go to great lengths to protect them. He also saw them for who they were, flawed individuals. He didn't see race, orientation, nothing. He saw them as people.

I loved this book.

Was this review helpful?

A Fantastic book, I need to have it in my library.
It was so wearable and beautiful. The cover, the synopsis, the narration, everything!
Congratulations to the author for this amazing work.
Recommended for everyone if you want a very bearable read.

Was this review helpful?

I loved the way this book made me take a deep dive into the lives of the characters, knowing their thoughts and feeling their emotions. Reading this thought provoking heartbreaking story about Steven Katz had me often in tears. He grows up learning his own family has strong beliefs that do no align with his own. At a baseball game he meets Suki who doesn't care about making the team, while Steven is forced by his father to do so. He and Suki become friends with Ollie and Nick each of whom have a great influence on their coming of age years. They face times of war, and on a mountain top hiking trip their friendship deepens. I felt deeply for Steven as he gradually learned he had different yearning feelings for Nick. Steven kept Nick from being found from the police; he hid him in the bottom of his family's root cellar. He was brave, loyal in keeping feelings and actions to himself as he ran away from his family, never quite sure what would happen. By chance he met an older man Mr Cho, who was to have a specific influence on him and led to an acceptance of things he could not complete or change. I highly recommend this insightful book, it is one I think is Catherine's best yet!

Was this review helpful?

Child of a nearby landowner, Steven Kartz appears to enjoy upper hands over a large number of settled families nearby, yet Steven has a mystery that makes him untouchable from his companions. Steven is homosexual. Mocked by his old companions and deprecated by his family, irrespective of the fact that they don’t know about his sexual orientation, Steven starts feeling lonely and turns into an introvert until he meets three young men who will change his reality and as far as he can tell, for eternity. Scratch, Suki, and Ollie are children of frame workers. Every kid accompanies issues of their own which are expertly evolved all through the novel. With the bombarding of Pearl Harbor, the United States is tossed into WWII. The Japanese settlers, even those brought up in the nation, such as Suki, are compelled to surrender all that they own and make the long trip to camps probably made for their security yet are virtual penitentiaries. The Japanese population is made to work extended periods in bone-dry fields and is under monitor consistently because they have the incident of having a restricting nation as their legacy.

The book was painfully lovely in manners I didn’t anticipate. This story has some sad portions from various perspectives and they softened my heart. I adored the connections Steven shaped with every one of his 3 companions, and the detail that was placed into analyzing each of them was beautiful. He justifiably had almost no affection for his awful family, however, the author permitted him to share all the adoration he had inside with his companions in little and diverse manners. It was an exceptional story about growing up in little and diverse manners. It was an exceptional story about growing up in a time revolving around WWII. This made the earnestness and distress of Steven’s requirement for a discovered family more significant.

The author describes the tales of these 4 companions through a progression of passionate misfortunes. Every one of those young men confronted supreme misfortunes in their manners, regardless of whether it be demise and war, treachery, absence of affection and wellbeing, bigotry and mistreatment, or an absence of having a place. These minutes are investigated and introduced normally as the plot pushes ahead, however, every one of them is pulverized to strong-hearted young men. This is a delightfully composed and powerful book that handles touchy points with incredible consideration and regard. It’s an enthusiastic story of misfortune, sexual direction, homophobia, and prejudice, and shamefulness in more ways than one, as every one of them faces one or a few of these issues. The author makes a wonderful feature of the connections between the young men and the preliminaries of being unique concerning what is considered okay. This is an extremely intriguing read and enthusiastic book which I’m happy to have read.

Was this review helpful?

I always read Catherine Ryan Hyde whenever I get a copy of any of her books and I was blown away by this book! This has to be her best book yet! Can't wait for release day so I can buy a print copy of this book!!

Was this review helpful?

Boy Underground – Catherine Ryan Hyde

The year is 1941 and Steven Katz is awaiting his turn at baseball tryouts. He’s particularly enamored with a Japanese schoolmate who is also trying out for the team and is starting to understand he has an attraction for the same sex in a time when such behavior is abhorred. When Suki strikes out, and leaves the field, Steven follows him, and strikes up a hesitant conversation, and soon he, Suki and two other teens, Ollie & Nick become fast friends.

Soon, Steven is invited by his newfound friends to join them on a camping trip to the mountains. While his uptight mother is reluctant to let him out of her sight, his father surprisingly agrees, telling her it’ll make him a man. They leave for the weekend in early December, enduring a grueling climb into the mountains, and set up camp near a beautiful, isolated lake. In a daring feat, one of the boys shucks his clothes and jumps into the frigid water, daring Steven to do the same. He does, and nearly drowns, but it pulled to safety by the other boys and they all pile into the tent they’ve brought, in an effort to warm Steven up.

By the time they return Sunday, everything has changed, but they don’t yet know or understand why. The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and suddenly, Japanese Americans, like Suki, are the enemy. Additionally, Nick’s father has been arrested after severely injuring a man in a bar fight, and he in turn, implicates his own son. Despite the boys’ alibi for Nick, they learn that the authorities are coming to arrest him, and Nick knows he needs to run. Steven, desperate to save his friend, hides him in an old, unused root cellar on his family’s farm, and keeps his a a secret, even from the other two boys. Shortly thereafter, Ollie decides to enlist in the military.

As the winter progresses, internment camps are being built and soon Suki’s family will be rounded up. One night, he comes and taps on Steven’s window, bringing the family dog, asking Steven to keep the dog safe. Steven takes the dog to Nick, knowing his mother will not allow the pet, and the next day Suki and his family are gone.

With the war raging on, Steven and Nick nurture their friendship and their emotional bond, as both come to terms with their situations and their feelings for one another. When Nick is able, he moves on in search of his long-lost mother, leaving the safety of Steven’s farm and their burgeoning relationship, but promising to keep in touch…

This is a poignant, wonderful novel about a young man’s coming of age in a warn torn world, as he struggles to come to terms with who he is and who he is meant to be. There are deep themes nestled within its pages, that will have you both chuckling and weeping as you re-live Stevens story through his aging eyes, his long cherished friendships - and the memories he carries. A beautiful read that will linger in your heart long after the last page is turned.

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from #Netgalley & Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an objective review.

Was this review helpful?

Excellent book places you back in time with the struggles of the times and how your friends, family, feelings and beliefs can cost you. Puts perspective on a time this generation can only imagine. I didn’t want to put it down or to have it end!

Was this review helpful?

Boy Underground is the fifth novel I have read by the talented Catherine Ryan Hyde. The plot of each book seems to have an element of fate. This seems especially true in Ms. Hyde’s newest project in which a 14-year-old boy meets a Japanese boy, who introduces him to another boy, who changes his whole life.

Steven Katz goes to his school’s baseball tryout because his dad made him. He doesn’t want to be there and thinks he may just lie and say that he didn’t make the team. He watches as a Japanese kid, Itsuki Yamamoto steps up to the plate. He looks cocky, like he’s about to pound the ball all over the field. Nope. He flails at the pitch. Once. Twice. Three times. It turns out that he’s there for the same reason Steven is. It’s a perfect start to a lasting friendship. “Suki” introduces Steven to his other pals, Ollie and Nick. Ollie is 17, and Nick is the same age as Suki and Steven but much bigger. He could pass for 17.

When the three friends announce that they’re going camping in the mountains, they invite Steven to go along. His mother says no. His father thinks that his mother coddles their son and says yes. The trip turns out to be a bonding experience. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hike up a mountain in December, dive into a freezing cold pool of water, and then cram into a tiny tent shivering all night with three guys he hardly knows? Hmm. Steven didn’t exactly hate any of it, especially the part where he was close to Nick, except that he was petrified, because, you know.

Why? Steven has already begun realize that he is more attracted to guys than to girls, and he is also aware that this is not acceptable in his town. It is especially not acceptable in his well-to-do, very conservative, uptight family where appearance matter more than anything else. If you’re someone who might be scared off by the fact that Steven is gay, don’t be. He is also a normal, sometimes awkward teenager who does not get along with his parents, or with his older brother, for that matter. He is trying to figure out how and why the world works the way it does. He proves to be a caring human being who occasionally messes up because he doesn’t have enough experience yet to know everything, but he acknowledges that. He has a lot of heart.

The year is 1941. The boys return home to some terrible news: Pearl Harbor was attacked. After another camping trip, it’s like deja vu. Some personal bad news for another of the friends. This forces one of the boys into hiding, and Steven goes the extra mile to assist his friends through their struggles. At fourteen, he is discovering who he is, he’s questioning authority and why the world is the way it is, and he wants to do what he can to make things better. He doesn’t judge his new buddies for where they live, where their dads work, or what color or nationality they are.

The war is on, and we see from the point of view of the families of a small California town – whites, Japanese, Chinese, and Jewish – wealthy and poor – how the war affects them. Life does go on, but it changes people too. More terrible news for the friends. And some in their families and their town, prejudices are deepened, like the battle wounds suffered by those have gone to war. For others, hearts are opened wider to accept those who are not like them.

I had just a few minor quibbles about this book. I felt that the parents, particularly Steven’s mother, were a bit too stereotyped, or was she a “typical” 1940s upper-class mother? She is a real shrew who is too concerned about social status – and a lousy cook too. She does not approve of Steven’s new friends, does not even want to meet them. I also felt that the while the concept of the “underground” is good, it is unrealistic that no one discovered it. However, those things in no way affected the impact this story had on me. It is beautifully written. I was deeply touched quite a few times, and there are a number of emotional scenes. There is so much love and loyalty among them, a real bond. The four friends are wonderful characters, as is the elderly Gordon Cho, whose wisdom I truly appreciated. Steven’s journey takes him through 1945.

The epilogue was a real pleasure to read. It picks up when Steven is 94! I would love to see another novel filling in the gap of all those years. Maybe someday, CRH?

As I read this book, I grew curious to know more about Manzamar War Relocation Center and found this link: This period was a black mark on our nation’s history, and it is important that we remember.

I sincerely wish to thank NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing, and the author for providing me with this NetGalley First Reads ARC of Boy Underground in exchange for my unbiased review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

5 stars

Was this review helpful?

This story takes place during WWII. Steven is a young teenager in 1941 and his parents are landowners in California. He struggles to find friends, but eventually finds great friendship with three other boys - all sons of field workers. The boys have several differences beyond their family roles with the land. Steven comes to the realization that he is gay and has feelings for his friend Nick. Suki is Japanese and his family is eventually sent to an internment camp. Ollie enlists to fight in the war. The war brings about many changes in the world, but impacts and strengthens these friendships along the way.

Was this review helpful?

Quite simply, Catherine Ryan Hyde cannot write a bad book. Like all of her previous novels that I have read I devoured this one in a few hours and am left wishing that there were a few hundred more pages to read.
I was a little unsure when I read the blurb as often when moving into period fiction sometimes it exposes the author to making continuity errors, using language that wouldn’t have existed at the time or of treating it like a museum exhibit and placing a barrier between the reader and the characters. Thankfully I had nothing at all to worry about and everything felt totally authentic. In fact I’m impressed beyond measure that CRH managed to make the novel feel utterly contemporary while being completely factually and historically accurate.
To me the mark of a good piece of fiction is that it inspires me to go and research something and learn more about the subject matter. I knew of course that the USA had Japanese internment camps but I have never read much about them which is something I will change right away.

Was this review helpful?

The story
Steven Katz is the 15 year old son of wealthy landowners in California in 1942. He has made friends with three other boys, Ollie who is older, Suki of Japanese descent and Nick. The three boys accept Steven into their circle and invite him to go hiking with them in the mountains. Over that fateful weekend, two important events take place. Nick’s father injures a man in an altercation and the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbour. These events change the course of history for all four boys. Ollie decides to enlist, Suki and his family are interred in a prisoner of war camp and Nick’s father tries to put the blame on his son. Steven is witness to all of the change, with his own relationship with his family becoming more and more strained as he struggles to accept his own nature and accept what is and has happened.

My thoughts
This is such a powerful book that deals with so many themes. Racism during the war, homophobia, coming of age, and mostly acceptance. At one point Steven speaks about the legal principle Res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself and it’s really so much of a metaphor for this book. Accepting what is and cannot be changed, but also not being there to support injustices. This is not the easiest read as there is a lot of raw emotion, but it was so worth it. ❤️

Was this review helpful?

Catherine Ryan Hyde has become one of my favorite authors. Boy Underground is an excellent read. Historical fiction plus LGBTQ makes it an unforgettable story of friendship, loss, and loyalty. When I read any CRH book I know I am in for a real treat with characters that are relatable and real. What a beautiful read.

Was this review helpful?