As part of the Back to Bataan tour I have a review of Jerome Charyn's Back to Bataan.
New York City, 1943. War is raging in Europe and the Pacific, while Jack Dalton is stuck attending Dutch Masters Day School. What Jack really wants is to enlist in the army, to fight...Everything changes when Coco, Jack's "fiancee," throws him over for one of his classmates. Jack sees red and does something drastic. Then he runs away. Hiding out in a nearby park, Jack joins ranks with a group of vagrants and is soon under the sway of a man called the Leader, an ex-convict who is as articulate and charismatic as he is dangerous. The Leader turns Jack's world upside down. To put things right, Jack must prove himself a braver soldier than he ever imagined.
ebook Published July 1st 2012 by Tribute Books
Three stars: A snap shot of a young boy's life during World War II.
Back to Bataan is a hard book for me to review. Mostly because it is such a different type of book that probably won't appeal to readers expecting a traditional YA book. I personally enjoyed this book because it was different and it provided me a glimpse into what life was like for young kids during the war era. I am always intrigued by books that pertain to this time period because I like to envision what the world was like when my grandparents were young. We live in an entirely different world now. This book focuses on a young boy named Jack. He is eleven years old and has the weight of the world upon his shoulders. His father was killed in the first year of the war on Bataan. Jack wants more than anything to be able to be a solider and join up with General McArthur and fight. Of course, at eleven he is told he is too young. He is a young boy forced to grow up too soon because of his situation. He not only dreams of fighting but he envisions a future with his girl Coco, to whom he is already engaged. Imagine an eleven year old wanting to head to war and already seeing himself married. Even though he seems quite grown up he is really a lost little boy. One who desperately is looking for a father type figure. Consequently, he befriends several men in hopes of finding a role model. From the Leader (a hobo) to Hans the German janitor. What follows are his misadventures as he slowly looks to find his place in the world.
Again, this book does not follow a traditional story line. So if you are expecting to pick this up and find a typical YA plot, you will be disappointed. Instead approach it as a novella that outlines life for a young boy during the world and the many difficulties he encounters. This book was written twenty years ago, but it still shines today. I loved Jack and the way he tried to see the good in people who were considered outcasts and the way he wanted to protect his mother. This story reminds us how difficult day to day life was during this period from the air raid warnings, ration stamps, food shortages and victory gardens. I must admit I had heard the term victory garden but didn't have a full understanding of them until I read this book. I came away with a new appreciation for my grandparent's generation. If you are someone who is fascinated by this period then this book is for you.
For me it was a memorable read, different and unexpected. It is a coming of age book for a young boy thrust into adult shoes due to his circumstances.
"Women really don't make much sense. You have to marry them and all that, but they fall in love with movies stars and they think that having Gary Cooper's signature is like having the whole world."
"Republicans didn't like Mrs. Roosevelt. They called her horseface. I didn't care. She was the kindest horseface in the world."
"You just can't win. I was crazy about Coco and Coco was crazy about me, I imagine, but we were closer to being enemies than friends."
A big thanks to Nicole at Tribute books for the review copy. I received this book in exchange for an honest review. You can find out more about Jerome Charyn on his website, twitter, facebook and Goodreads.
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