The War Outside by Monica Hesse

Hey everyone, it’s Sarah!

I received the following eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


World War II was a dangerous time to be alive and this sentiment extends globally. America has its own problematic issues during this time, one of those key issues being the “family interment camps,” that popped up across the country. Many immigrants or others deemed connected to Japan and Germany were taken from their homes and relocated to these “camps.” While the people inside attempted to keep a sense of normalcy, it robbed people of their sense of self and further perpetuated racist sentiments.

Haruko’s brother is fighting overseas for America, but because the government has determined her family is Japanese sympathizers, they are relocated to the camp. It is baffling that her patriotic family, with a member in the army, could ever be considered an enemy of the country. Haruko’s parents attempt to make the best of the situation, simply because they don’t want any violence enacted against them. Haruko is mad and wants answers, especially because she knows that her father is hiding an important secret. At “school” Haruko becomes even more frustrated when she meets Margot, a girl from the German side of the camp. They strike up an unlikely friendship, perhaps something more, but they must keep it secret or they will become targets of both those running the camp and those in the camp with them.

Margot’s father was a lovely man, who loved to learn and teach. However, with her mother’s current difficult pregnancy and living in the camp, Margot’s father feels inadequate, which leads him to make upsetting decisions. Margot connects with Haruko, as they are both trying to find a way to survive.


I never warmed up to Haruko, her character was spoiled and unable to understand the feelings of those around her. It was intentional and what she and the real people she was based on had to go through was not right and not okay, though I just didn’t like her. I liked the addition of the queer themes, which something you typically do not see in historical fiction. It was a well-developed decent into unacceptable choices and truly explorers how people could get to the bad places they end up. Overall this was a solid historical novel, though not one of my favorites.



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