Found via: Publisher's Weekly 4/12
There are endless variations on stories about WWII, which is a testament to just how far reaching and traumatizing that war was. While there are lots of stories about the war in Europe, and many stories about Japan, I found Warriors in the Crossfire to be a new take on the Pacific Theater, focusing on the island of Saipan, an important strategic point in the war for both the Japanese and the Americans.
For Joseph, the 13 year old son of the village chief, and his cousin and best friend Kento, the second world war is a chilling specter on the horizon - but at the same time, that horizon feels far away. Kento is the son of a native woman and a Japanese administrator, secure of his place in Saipan and sure of his safety. He wants to be both a samurai and to learn the ways of the island warriors from Joseph - just in case he needs to protect his mother and sister.
For Joseph, the skills of a warrior have a much more practical purpose. For while he is afforded some privileges, like attending the local Japanese school, he knows that the rights of his people are severely abridged. He literally has to use his hunting skills to provide enough food for his parents, his sister and her husband, and his nephew, especially as the Japanese increase their demands for workers from the native population.
As the realities of war draw closer, Joseph's father gives him a near impossible task: protect his family from the crossfire of the Japanese and American soldiers, living in a cave with limited provisions. And the hardest part? He's not to trust Kento who is, after all, Japanese. If forced to choose, who would Kento protect - his Japanese or his native family? And who would Joseph pick if faced with a similar choice?
This is a short but well-paced, action-filled book. Joseph is a well-rounded character saddled with an impossible responsibility in the face of war. I loved the look at the culture on Saipan, how it was an uneasy balance between the Japanese rulers and the various native villagers. While the war mostly takes place off screen, the ending has an absolutely chilling portrayal of the Battle of Saipan and the grim orders given to the Japanese civilians on the island.