Sunday, May 01, 2022


Stanish, Ali. Yonder
May 3rd 2022 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's 1943, and Danny is dealing with several different issues in his small town near Asheville. His father, the editor of the local paper, is off fighting in the war, and his mother, who is heavily pregnant, has taken his place, since there are no men who are stepping up to do the job. His best friend was Lou, a girl who loves Nancy Drew mysteries, but since her brother is a conscientious objector, the whole family is having a hard time. Another family that was close with his, the Musgraves, has actually left town because of the discrimination they faced for being Black. Danny delivers the newspapers along with Jack Bailey, a local boy who once saved twins from a flood, and who lives with his neglectful and abusive father. Jack lived with Danny's family for a while after one particularly bad beating, and in flashbacks, we see how different situations in town played out in the past. When Jack doesn't show up for his paper route, and also misses school, Danny is concerned that his father might have had a hand in his older friend's disappearance. World War II figures largely in the life of the townspeople, with rationing, scrap collecting, and blue and gold star flags in many windows. Local bullies Bruce and Logan, who have given Danny a hard time in the past, cause troubles in the town, and Mrs. Wagner, who lives at the edge of town, comes into their sights because she is German. Danny's mother is very accepting of other people, and encourages him to keep an open mind about people who might be different from him. He and Lou start to investigate Jack's disappearance, but Danny starts to wonder if Jack has gone "Yonder", based on stories that his friend told him about a different place, and some clues that Danny finds. The truth is much more utilitarian, and despite the understanding attitude of Danny's family, life in Foggy Gap is hard for people who are different, and the war is just making it harder. 
Strengths: There are many good details about every day life during World War II, and I especially liked the details about delivering the newspapers and going to school. Jack's life is unfortunately probably fairly common for that time period, and there is a good note at the end of the book with resources for young people today who might be struggling with similar circumstances. When I finished the book, I thought that if Jack had been a little bit older, he would have been a good fit for the Civilian Conservation Corps. There aren't a lot of older WWII titles that deal with conscientious objectors, treatment of people of color, or child abuse, so it was interesting to see these placed into a historical setting. This is done in a realistic and yet progressive way that was very well done. Seeing this all unfold from Danny's point of view is a good choice, and adds a nice coming of age feel to the book. 
Weaknesses: There are a lot of flashbacks that are essential to the plot development, so readers who don't do well with story that aren't linear may struggle with this one. I thought for a while that there would be a magical element to the story, with Yonder and the jewel birds, but there really wasn't. This is fine, but threw me a bit. 
What I really think: While books set on the home front don't circulate as well as books involving battles, this is a good choice for readers who like stories about the home front during WWII and who enjoyed Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest, Peck's On the Wings of Heroes, Wolk's Wolf Hollow, or Larson's Code Word Courage
 Ms. Yingling

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