Synopsis from Goodreads: Two extraordinary characters. One unforgettable love story. In the spring of 1941, young Jon Meyer’s family dies in a tragic accident, and he is sent to live in a small Indiana town. He arrives to find himself unwanted and shunned. Mary Dahlgren is the mayor’s daughter. A pretty girl, she could have the pick of the boys in town, including Vernon King, the star of the vaunted high school basketball team. To the chagrin of her friends, though, Mary has always been more interested in books than boys. That is, until she meets Jon. But Jon and Mary are kept apart through the efforts of Mary’s father, who perceives their relationship a threat to his political aspirations, and Vernon, to whom Jon is a rival for Mary’s affections. For months Jon is subjected to a painful ostracism. Then, just when the young man’s earnestness and perseverance begin to win over many of the townsfolk, and it appears that love may conquer all, tragedy strikes. As the country is caught up in war, so too are the young lovers swept up in events beyond their control, leaving both fighting for their very lives. If, against the odds, they are to be together, each will need to find the strength, the courage and the resourcefulness that beat only in a defiant heart.
My latest read is a historical fiction novel with lots of action, suspense, and romance. I won't waste any time in labeling this book a page-turner! One of my favorite things about this book was that it gave me closure in a few of the troubling scenarios, and I got to say "You got what you deserved, you loser!" I was hugely impressed by the character development, something that is important to me, above all. I felt like I knew these people just after a few chapters! Having been a kid who was ostracized based on race and religion, that part of the story hit a soft spot. Jon became very dear to me quickly and was a tremendously lovable character. Vernon should have been named vermin! He was a loathsome, barbaric, self-absorbed piece of crap, and that was a superb piece of this story. Without that character, the whole story would have been two shades duller. One of my favorite scenes was the confrontation between the despicable coach Mr. Spitzman and nerdy-cute English teacher Ms. Tremaine when he tried to bully and threaten her to pass Vernon and another jock just so they could play in the championship game. I think the balance of lovable vs. hateful characters was perfect.
I really enjoy when a story has various pieces that make me wonder where the story is going, then they all come together in the end. Like when Jon's random friendship with Ben Wheeler who teaches him how to box and fly a plane comes in handy later in the story. Let's just say Coach Spitzman gets just what he deserved, and Jon's talent with flying ends up saving his and other lives. Oh, and Ben is one of my favorite characters besides Jon, Mary, and Walt. I normally don't like strong female characters because they're often written to be overly stubborn and annoyingly heroic with tons of "Yea, right!" moments. Example - Bella from Twilight and Remi from Hollowland. Mary is just right. She didn't annoy me ONE time through this entire book. She was a sweet decent girl and thwarted all of Vernon's boldfaced efforts to bully her into going out with him. Thanks to him, she ends up in a coma, and Jon's life is turned inside-out after he tries to save her. He's forced to enlist in the army, and it's not surprising that he does exceptionally well.
Spoiler Alert -- Spoiler Alert -- Spoiler Alert
I was proud of Mary for standing up to her deadbeat dad. I was disgusted by his behavior and selfishness while running for office. He put his campaign above decency and his daughter's life. He was the total opposite of a hero. I was glad he lost everything, including her when she decided to join the army to get away from him and to find Jon. She did, and the ending is very rocky. I loved how it ended, but Steere makes his reader work hard to get that ending. And that is crafty writing! I was glued to this story from very early on, mainly because it was realistic. The historic facts about the era and the war was spot on based on what I know. Even the mannerisms and personality traits of the characters suited the time frame quite well. Steere writes in a way that keeps you wondering what will happen next. Even when I wanted to pause just to run to the restroom, I read just a few paragraphs more before I dashed away, lol. Parts of this story even brought tears to my eyes, which does NOT happen often with me. Last time that happened was with The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. And, I must compliment the author's vivacious vocabulary. It's a buzz kill when writers use the same words over and over or choose words that are way too common. I learned a few new words today. Love it!
I give his book FIVE stars!! This was a terrifically enjoyable read, and I recommend it to everyone! It comes out on April 14. For now you can check out the reviews on Goodreads. So make a note, and go look for it!