Cover Image: Boy Underground

Boy Underground

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I really enjoyed “Boy Underground”. The writing was excellent, as it always is with Catherine Ryan Hyde. The story held my interest and kept me wanting to read more. I think this would be a good book for high school students as it is about high school boys in a CA town during WWII and deals with topics that affect young men. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for this ARC.

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Very insightful book about a gay boy, finding his place in the world. Sadder than I expected, even with a positive ending, but it's still a good read.

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⭐⭐⭐⭐ +
Time Period 1941-1945
Location: Rural California
Our narrator and protagonist is young 14 year old Steven Katz. He is aware that he is more fortunate than his classmates whose dad’s work as farm laborers for his landowner dad, however, he isn’t of the belief that he is better.
When he starts high school he is friendless as he had a hard time fitting in and is teased.
He develops a friendship with a new group of high school friends Nick, Saki, and Ollie ~ all sons of field workers; his parents especially his mother doesn’t approve.

He and his new friends plan to go hiking on an overnight trip in the Sierra Mountains. For one reason or another they don’t go until Saturday, December 6, 1941. This trip has created a special bond with these new friends. However, the next day their lives change forever!

Immediately the police are seeking Nick. He was betrayed by his father for a bar fight his dad was in and states Nick was in the fight and he was trying to break it up. In fact, has a witness who confirms his story.
Nick is on the run and seeks help from Stephen who hides him.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Saki and his family are gathered with 10,000 other Japanese families and taken to Manzanar; before leaving Saki asks if Stephen would take care of his grandmother’s little dog Akira as they are not permitted to take animals.

Since Stephen is helping Nick hide, he figures the little dog might be nice to keep him company. He is sooo right! The bond Nick has with Akira is really special.

Since Ollie enlisted Stephen doesn’t have any close friends. He is befriended by an elderly Chinese man Mr. Gordon Cho who becomes a mentor.

I could have finished this in one evening. It is definitely one of those read where I say ~ “Just One more chapter!”
I finished this morning which gave me a chance to digest what I had read, if not I probably would have been up half the night thinking about it.
The last chapter “My Life’s Epilogue” is very special as is the entire book!

Although I have only read a few Catherine Ryan Hyde novels and she does NOT disappoint! I look forward to my next read!

Want to thank NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this uncorrected eGalley.
This file has been made available to me before publication in an early form for an honest professional review. Only fitting that the Publishing Release Date scheduled for December 7, 2021

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CRH’s newest novel is a little different from her previous work. Boy Underground is set in the WWII era. As historical fiction Ryan Hyde did a fantastic job portraying the period details. I’m pretty picky about historical details, and this book passed my critique.

I was especially struck by Catherine Ryan Hyde’s descriptions of Manzanar, a WWII Japanese internment camp just east of the Sierra’s and south of Bishop, CA. I’ve made Manzanar National Historical Site a stop every time I drive up US 395 and was happy to see CRH describe the details of this camp with accurate details. I loved the way she first brings it into the story, as well as how she returns to it later in the novel.

This book is unique among most other WWII era historical fiction. It doesn’t focus on stories related to battles or events in Europe or the Pacific. Instead, the novel focuses on the home front - a rural farming region near Fresno, CA..

More than its historical context, though, is this story’s portrayal of friendships between a group of boys. Each boy has his own struggle to confront, but their friendships transcend the circumstances. The book is told from one teenage boy’s perspective and his voice is true to his age and generation. Steven Katz is struggling to come to terms with who he is and how he will stay true to his convictions. My heart melted, cried and cheered for him - an emotional journey I expect from this author.

If you look for books where people struggle with real problems - societal and personal - and where there is a generally satisfying conclusion then you will probably enjoy this book. If you are already a fan of this author, then you have another winner. This is one of her best books, for sure.

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This is the story of Steven and his journey with his 3 friends back when WWII broke out. When the book started, Steven is just becoming friends with Suki, Ollie and Nick. I thought the beginning of the story and the way they became friends was weak. However, once I it got going, I quickly got sucked into the story of their relationship and how it was changed by the events of WWII. Steven is an old soul who realizes that all people should be treated equally. The people in his town and even his own parents do not agree, but Steven is not afraid to stand up for his friends and for what he believes in. There are themes of racial injustice, social injustice and homophobia in this book. There were a few things that seemed a bit farfetched because they happened too easily, but all in all, this was a powerful book that I really enjoyed reading. #BoyUnderground #NetGalley

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Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan Hyde is an engrossing historical fiction book which highlights life prior to and in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor in California. It also moves much into the present time period provide a fantastic continuity of the characters as they age.

Four teen boys have vastly different circumstances but come together as friends. Steven is the son of a wealthy landowner while Suki, Ollie, and Nick are the sons of laborers. Steven has a secret that isolates him from his same class of peers and he finds a deeper friendship with these three.

Unfortunately, when Pearl Harbor is bombed life as they know it is over. Most dramatically for Suki and his family when they end up in an internment camp and Ollie who enlists to fight in the war. As for Nick and Steven, a close relationship develops between them. The secret identity they share as gay individuals forge a bound that can not be broken. But, life unfortunately may throw obstacles in their way.

The story is told in flashbacks to Steven as a teen and later as an older man. I learned much about the true heroism of Japanese American citizens forced to endure internment camps during WWII. The reverberations of Pearl Harbor and the true devastation by the Japanese was felt long after that fateful Sunday 12/7 morning,

Detailed and thoughtful characterization is done expertly by Hyde. The minor characters are also expertly woven throughout . The very real terror of this time period was made apparent. The bravery also of Steven forced to hide his true self during a time when his identity was a cause for shame was also insightful.

I was provided a free advance reader copy from Lake Union Publishing in exchange for my honest review from Net Galley. The opinions shared in this review are my own.

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Catherine Ryan Hyde is one of my favorite authors and this book did not disappoint. Set during WWII, the book describes the friendship between three young boys and each of their struggles. Sad at times, the story is very powerful. Highly recommend.
#BoyUnderground #NetGalley

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This book was so beautifully done. It is not often you read a story about WWII where the main character is an American Jewish boy that is friends with boys that are not in his social standing. Steven becoming friends with a Japanese boy right before the attack on Pearl Harbor really changed that way he saw the injustices of the world. The strength Steven showed as a 14 year old boy was truly amazing. He stood up to his parents in his own way and fought for his friends. This book was truly eye-opening. These 4 boys helped each other and grew to have a lifelong connection that many do not get the privilege of experiencing.

Not many books talk about the camp that Japanese people were send to during WWII. It was educational in what it was like to be sent blindly to a location and to be considered a threat even if you were born in the United States. I love that Steven tried to visit Suki.

My heart broke for Steven once he left home and with the heart break he experienced. I was so glad Suki was able to help him get his closure and heal. I loved that they end of the book took the boys back to California.

Thank you to Lake Union and NetGalley for the ARC of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

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A heartbreaking look into the lives of four young teens at the beginning of World War II.

Son of a local landowner, Steven Katz seems to have advantages over many of the immigrant families in the area, but Steven has a secret that makes him an outcast with his peers.

Steven is gay.

Ridiculed by his old friends and belittled by his family (though they don’t know of his sexual orientation), Steven turns inward and becomes a loner until he meets three boys who will change his world and the way he sees it, forever.

Nick, Suki, and Ollie are sons of farmworkers. Each boy comes with issues of their own which are expertly developed throughout the novel, but for the purpose of this review I would like to center on Suki and his family.

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States is thrown into WWII. As such, Japanese immigrants, even those born and raised in the country, like Suki, are forced to give up virtually everything they own and make the long trek to camps supposedly created for their safety, but actually are virtual prisons. The Japanese people are made to work long hours in arid fields and are under guard at all times- just because they have the misfortune of having an opposing country as their heritage.

The author does a superb job of highlighting the bonds between the boys and the trials of being different than what is considered acceptable. Told in first person through Steven’s eyes only adds an extra layer to what is a poignant novel filled with sensitive issues valid even in today’s moral climate.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This is definitely a five star read. It is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

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I have read a few of Catherine’s book and each one is unique and makes you feel like you are reading a true story.
The hardest part of this book is that this story is based on reality. History.

Boy underground is no exception. It’s truly a beautiful , but sad read based around WW2. I don’t want to give too much away. But it is a definite must read and five worthy stars. Six if possible!

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Catherine Ryan Hyde returns to historical fiction in Boy Underground, taking us to the beginning of WWII. Steven, Nick, Ollie, and Suki come together as friends and their bond is disrupted by the war. Suki is taken away to one of the Japanese internment camps, Ollie goes to fight in the war. And Nick is accused of beating a man into a coma. Suddenly Steven is all alone again with feelings he can't explain.
I can't imagine growing up in a time when people were put into interment camps for being a certain race. This book enlightening me to some historical parts I hadn't even thought of. Catherine Ryan Hyde does an amazing job. She is one of my favorite storytellers. Her books flow so very nicely. The characters are easily identified and easy to follow. The book follows chronological order so there is no going back and forth between times.
I will be recommending this book to others and will always continue to look for works by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Special thanks to Catherine Ryan Hyde, NetGalley, and Lake Union Publishing for the advanced digital copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 4.5 stars for me.
#BoyUnderground #NetGalley

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One of those books that I read in less than 24 hours because I couldn't put it down once I'd started it. It's pretty hard to believe that this is fiction - I know it's steeped in historical fact but it's more than that. The characters are so real and the way it's written is so real. I really hope that this book is made into a film - it would be a very beautiful film!

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Another amazing story by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I especially enjoyed this one that takes place during WWII. This book is all about accepting others as they are and friendship that lasts a lifetime.

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I think this was such an interesting story to read and something I might usually not gravitate to. I loved the fact that there was representation from different marginalized groups. I think that this is also a story of a time and situation that can kind of be forgotten about, but after everything that has happened over the last year and a half it's such an important time in history to be aware of. I'm really thankful that there was an update of where the characters where in present time, that gave me some closure and really rounded out the end of the story. I was actually surprised by how mature Nick's response was for not wanting to be with Steven. It really didn't seem like something that an 18 would realize, but at the same time he's had to grow and mature so much because he was alone and fending for himself for so long. I always love reading books from Catherine Ryan Hyde and this was a great read!

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This is a hugely important story, beautifully told, heartwrenching in the fact that it’s based on reality, and that it’s based on a part of America’s history that we are not proud of. I fell in love with the characters from the first page and read the whole book through in just a couple of sittings because I was so caught up in their lives, their lives, their stories. Catherine Ryan Hyde has done it again!

Thanks to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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A novel set in the US during the early years of WWII. Like most CRH novels, the protagonist is a youth. In this case, a 14 year old boy who is estranged from his wealthy parents. He has three friends. One is a Japanese boy whose family is confined to a camp during the war. Another is the son of a drunken bully who sets up his son to take responsibility for his own criminal act. The third is older and enlists in the military at the beginning of the war.
Bigotry and racism are addressed from several perspectives.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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We meet Stephen, a 14-year-old boy growing up in California, in 1941, as he befriends a group of three other boys. What follows is the story of the four friends and the different paths their lives take following a series of circumstances beyond their control. including enlistment in the army, incarceration in a Japanese internment camp, being falsely accused of a crime, and dealing with homophobia in a less than supportive family environment.

While all of these issues could mount up to an overwhelmingly heavy story, this book is a wonderful, poignant, and beautiful story of friendship, tolerance, and acceptance. The characters are very well-written, and a lot of the exchanges with supporting characters are incredibly well observed. I really enjoyed the unfolding of each boy's story, and found myself truly moved by the story numerous times.

I learned some new things about American history along the way, which was an unexpected bonus, and the overall story was very uplifting. I will certainly be looking for more titles by this author.

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The book didn’t really speak to me as a reader. I kept waiting for some big ta-da like Nick’s father wasn’t going to be found guilty and after witnessing the injustice of the war against the Japanese and Jewish, Steven decided to attend law school and fight for the underprivileged. But none of that happened. There is a mention about law school, I think way in the beginning but we never hear about it. We actually never hear about any of his life. We go from 1945 to 2019 and it left me wanting. The story jumped so far ahead I felt lost and confused by what was so significant about this boy he hid underground. He never moved on to create a life with him, it just ended. I’m glad he found his true match in the end but it just felt like the entire story was building up to something great and it never really got there. This is the second book I have read by this author and I enjoy the writing style and I'm never dragging my feet or dreading finishing it. I did find the detail/portion of the story about the Japanese being sent to camps interesting and sent me looking for more stories about them.

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Catherine Ryan Hyde is one of my top 5 favorite authors. Despite the fact she has already written over 30 novels, I think she continues, amazingly, to improve. I read in Ms. Hyde’s blog that she thinks Boy Underground is the best book she has written since Have You Seen Luis Velez. I can now see why she says that as even though Luis Velez has always been my favorite CRH book, Boy Underground now holds that honor.

Boy Underground is the story of young Steven Katz. It takes place from 1941 to 1945 with a beautiful epilogue from 2019. Steven is 14 in 1941 and is in that state of limbo so many young teens find themselves in. He is on the cusp of manhood yet stuck under the thumb of his parents. His “should-have-never-had-kids” parents. Not only that, but he has fallen into some situations that no 14-year-old deserves to be in. So much angst and responsibility for a young man that age. Complicating everything is the disaster at Pearl Harbor and the subsequent entry of America into WWII.

As with many of the other CRH books I have read, this one has a protagonist to remember for life (how rare is that?), a true-to-life portrayal of the setting (California Sierra Mountains area in the early 1940s), valuable life lessons to share, a heartfelt original storyline, and a most welcome epilogue that is both poignant and satisfying. How Ms. Hyde continues to write quality book after quality book is hard for me to fathom.

While WWII is a backdrop in this novel, I want to make clear this isn’t a war story per se. This is a tale about coming of age, prejudice, family relationships (good and bad), the power of friendship, being true to oneself, courage, and wisdom.

Ms. Hyde kept me riveted time and time again with foreshadowing statements such as: “It was the beginning of a new era. An era for which I thought I was prepared. Rarely in my life have I ever been so spectacularly wrong.” Reading a Hyde book is also an opportunity to learn. I found Chapter Seventeen, entitled “Things Are Incomplete,” to be especially enlightening.

I flew through this book. I have no doubt that despite stiff competition from several other phenomenal books 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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What an amazing story about standing up for what's right. I don't know how Hyde can put so much depth into her stories but she does. Her description of the relationships between the friends is so emotional and sincere that it made me sad when they all had to go away. I love that Steven did the right thing even though his family didn't. And I also like that he didn't hide how he felt about anyone.
There are so many aspects of this story I liked that I could talk about but then you wouldn't read the story. And you need to read the story.

I found a lot of what Steven was dealing with was new in the 1940's, but it is very much as important topic now as then and I like that it was handle as kindly and lovingly as possible.

I want to thank Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book

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