Monica Hesse’s The War Outside pierces the heart with its exceptional story of family, friends and country. Two young women meet in a World War II internment camp in Texas for “enemy aliens”—those suspected of colluding with the Axis—but because Margot is German-American and Haruko is Japanese-American, the two teens cannot openly be friends.
When a dust storm forces the girls to shelter together, they overcome the mores of the camp and forge a tenuous bond. Inexorably drawn to each other, they continue to meet in secret. Alienated from all that is familiar, Haruko slowly reveals her fears for her brother’s safety as he serves in the Japanese-American fighting unit. Margot feels empathy for Haruko, but she doesn’t share her own secrets because she thinks they are too awful and that revealing them would drive Haruko away.
The War Outside highlights a blight on our country’s past—the forced imprisonment of American citizens without a trial—and Hesse’s story packs a gut-wrenching wallop as a result.
Author of the multiple award-winning novel Girl in the Blue Coat, Hesse offers a subtle promise in her new novel—to remember and never repeat this history. Riveting and meticulously researched, this story reverberates with authentic voices as it explores adolescent growth under dreadful circumstances.