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This Light Between Us

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A story of World War II about the unlikeliest of pen pals--a Japanese American boy and a French Jewish girl--as they fight to maintain hope in a time of war.

In 1935, ten-year-old Alex Maki from Bainbridge Island, Washington is disgusted when he's forced to become pen pals with Charlie Levy of Paris, France--a girl. He thought she was a boy. In spite of Alex's reluctance, their letters continue to fly across the Atlantic--and along with them the shared hopes and dreams of friendship. Until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the growing Nazi persecution of Jews force them to confront the darkest aspects of human nature.

From the desolation of an internment camp on the plains of Manzanar to the horrors of Auschwitz and the devastation of European battlefields, the only thing they can hold onto are the memories of their letters. But nothing can dispel the light between them.

384 pages, ebook

First published January 7, 2020

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About the author

Andrew Fukuda

9 books560 followers
Born in Manhattan and raised in Hong Kong, Andrew Fukuda is half-Chinese, half-Japanese. After earning a bachelor's degree in history from Cornell University, Fukuda worked in Manhattan's Chinatown with the immigrant teen community. That experience led to the writing of Crossing, his debut novel that was selected by ALA Booklist as an Editor's Choice, Top Ten First Novel, and Top Ten Crime Novel in 2010. His second novel, The Hunt, the first in a new series, was bought at auction by St. Martin's Press and will be published in May 2012. Before becoming a full time writer, Fukuda was a criminal prosecutor for seven years. He currently resides on Long Island, New York, with his family.

From the author's website.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 463 reviews
Profile Image for Emma☀️.
332 reviews326 followers
March 29, 2020
4.5 stars!
This Light Between Us is a beautiful, heart-wrenching tale of friendship and loss. I sobbed and I laughed. This book has left a mark on me and will be on my mind for a very long time.

The friendship between Alex and Charlie was so sweet and touching. They were each other’s rocks and comfort. Both characters were very well written and complex. You can’t help but root for them to meet. I really enjoyed the letters between them and watching their friendship blossom over the course of the years.

Although Alex and Charlie’s friendship was the focal point of the novel, the book also focuses on racism against the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Fukuda did an amazing job at portraying Alex’s pain and anger. The book was also well researched and the writing style vivid and gripping.

Overall, I really enjoyed this beautiful tale and will recommend this to anyone!
Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,684 reviews456 followers
January 7, 2020
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This was a wonderful book. I happened on this book quite by chance but decided to give it a try and I am so glad that I did. I have read quite a few books set during World War II over the years and usually find them heartbreaking and powerful. This was a really unique story that really did grab me. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read this powerful novel.

Alex and Charlie become pen pals when they are only 10 years old. Charlie is a Jewish girl living in Paris with her family. Alex is a Japanese American boy at a time when being of Japanese descent is more than just a little difficult. We get to know Charlie and Alex through the letters that they write to each other and we get to see how things are changing in both of their worlds.

Charlie does play a part in this book but I really feel like this was Alex's story. We see Charlie through her letters but we get to see Alex during the challenges he faced. I hate to admit that I don't know as much as I should about internment camps that the United States put into place after the attack on Pearl Harbor but what I learned in this book made me sad and angry at the same time. The descriptions of what Alex and his family went through were heartbreaking.

Alex's decision to join the military in the hopes of helping his father really demonstrated the strength of his character. The descriptions of the battles that Alex's unit faced were incredibly vivid. I felt like I was right there with Alex, Mutt, Teddy, and the rest of their unit as they faced nearly impossible odds. Alex played a very important part in his unit and was under a lot of pressure but he handled it like a pro. He never stopped thinking about his family or Charlie even when things were at their worst.

I would highly recommend this book to others. I had a hard time putting this book down once I got started with it. It was an emotional read and beautiful at the same time. I feel like I have been on quite the journey with Alex and Charlie in this powerful book. I wouldn't hesitate to read more of Andrew Fukuda's work.

I received an advanced review copy of this book from Tor Teen.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,071 reviews219 followers
December 16, 2019
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As always, a copy of this book was provided by the publisher or author in exchange for my honest review and/or participation in the blog tour. This does not effect my opinion in any way. This does not effect my opinion in any way. Review also found here at Booked J.

How do you describe This Light Between Us? It's nearly impossible. I paused at my screen many times as I tried to bring forth the words to describe how reading this made me feel. Here's what I know: it is one of the best books I've read all year. Absolutely breathtaking. This was my first glimpse into the prose of Andrew Fukuda, but it certainly won't be my last. This Light Between Us is something special.

Consider this your first required read of 2020.

Historical fiction can be difficult to navigate, but Fukuda is more than up for the task and creates an emotionally charged story that will surely leave an impression on those who read it. This Light Between Us possesses all the qualities that a good novel requires and portrays every inch of our history as humans with a blunt force of honesty, care and complexities.

We often hear of the horror of World War II, but not nearly enough--we so rarely shine that light against the most shadowy parts of history. Exploration of the internment camps, which served up sheer cruelty, is not something that is often spoken of. Many don't even know, fully, the extent of this fractured part of history--and that is completely devastating. This story, too, is devastating and stunning all at once--the way that Fukuda weaves these historical events together is as cold and smooth as you'd expect; poignant and thought-provoking.

I feel like there are so few novels that explore horrendous acts in our history in the way that Fukuda does. It is this ache throughout our body. It is about remembering. It is art that reflects life. It will leave readers feeling awe when it comes to the way Andrew Fukuda brings this story to life. It is fiction that could easily be reality, because it's based within reality and the gravity of this story weighs at the reader.

Readers who appreciated the messages behind The Book Thief and White Rose will gravitate towards this one easily.

And be warned. Reading This Light Between Us will leave an echo of this story at the back of your minds for life. At least, this is true for me. Closing this book was bittersweet and left me feeling an array of emotions. I'd expected to love this book with my whole heart from the getgo, but something about it managed to exceed those expectations.

One thing is or certain: I will never forget This Light Between Us, the history, and the way Fukuda tells the story of Alex and Charlie, and the light between them. Every page of this novel is worthy of your devotion, and will surely require tissues and annotation. This should be at the top of everyone's lists next year.
Profile Image for ᒪᗴᗩᕼ .
1,458 reviews144 followers
August 1, 2020
● 4¼ STARS



If you like stories based on WWII then you should really read/listen to this...it gave me some Between Shades of Gray vibes...although it didn't quite deliver the feels that BSOG did, it really shined from an educational point of view. It was enlightening, with the hate that his family endured from their hometown to the bus ride to Manzanar, the war scenes and, the atrocities of the concentration camps. I never really knew about the camp for Japanese-Americans...I may have learned about it in school, but it's been a while since I was in school.

Told mainly from the POV of Alex Maki...this is really his story. Charlie Levy is just a significant part of it...so is his family, especially his brother, the internment camps, and lastly the war itself. The war scenes did get a little monotonous for me...because I just wanted more Charley. Overall though...this is totally worth the read/listen.

The narration by Emily Ellet was phenomenal, she did a bubbly teenage french girl really well. I wish she would've had more parts in the story. Greg Chun as the Japanese-American boy was really well performed for the most part, too. His yelling-voice was really awkward and there are several instances where he does that, especially once he enlists.

● Narration Rating ⇢ 4½ STARS
● Plot ⇢ 4.3/5
● Characters ⇢ 5/5
● The Feels ⇢ 4/5
● Pacing ⇢ 4/5
● Addictiveness ⇢ 4.3/5
● Theme, Tone or Intensity ⇢ 4.5/5
● Originality/Believability ⇢ 4.5/5
● Flow (Writing Style/Ease of Listening) ⇢ 4.3/5
● World-Building ⇢ 4.5/5
● Ending ⇢ 4/5
● Summation ⇢ 4¼ STARS

Profile Image for Morgan .
794 reviews131 followers
June 13, 2020
This book is intended to attract a YA audience and I highly recommend it for that age group.
It is written with a YA reader in mind but I enjoyed it as well.

1935 – Ten year old Japanese American Alex Maki and Charlie Lévy a French Jewish girl living in Paris become pen-pals.
Their friendship grows over the years through the many, many letters exchanged each expressing deep private thoughts and feelings. Their letters are endearing and funny and full of the hopes and dreams of youth.

1941 – Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.
Japanese Americans are ‘relocated’ and we all know what happened to the Jews in France.

As you can see from the cover photo Alex goes to war and (naturally) ends up in France. This is very much Alex’s story.

There is more than one theme to this book: prejudice, friendships and the horrors of war.

If you want to know if Alex and Charlie ever meet you will have to read the book.

January 7, 2020

For those who love reading historical fiction especially from the WWII era, I highly recommend this book. Fukuda approaches this genre very differently. This story begins with two young children. One in Bainbridge Island, Washington and the other in Paris, France. As a school assignment, these two become pen pals. Alex Maki is disheartened to learn that his pen pal, Charlie Levy, is actually a girl. But for some reason, he decides to stick to his correspondence years later, even after his school assignment no longer requires that they write.

Alex is a bit of a loner and doesn't have any friends. Charlie, in essence, becomes his only friend.

What makes this story unique is that Alex is a Japanese American. Charlie is a French Jew. They become friends right before the war. So this correspondence makes this story even more special since we know what happens when the war begins.

Alex and Charlie continue to write after the Japanese are sent to internment camps. A friend of the family delivers the letters to Charlie in Paris. Charlie's family remains in Paris longer than they should have.

When Alex's letters are returned, he still continues to write, even though there are no more letters from Charlie.

This story is about a friendship between two people that have never met but are bound to each other through these letters. It is like the quote from Jane Eyre: "I have a strange feeling with regard to you. As if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you. And if you were to leave I'm afraid the cord of communion would snap."

There is a light between them that binds them, and Alex will do what he can to find Charlie.

I can't tell you how much my heart hurt for these two. The story is told through Alex's eyes. We see the despair around him while they are in the Japanese internment camps. We watch as members of the 442nd are killed around him as they storm Suicide Hill to save the Lost Battalion. And then we see glimpses of Auschwitz and Dachau when the American troops arrive.

Alex never gave up looking for her.

I cried at the end. I really cried. This was just wonderfully done. I really liked that he chose to link this string under the ribs of a Japanese American boy and a French Jewish girl, a symbol of two groups that were victimized by the war. That is what made this story even more special.
Profile Image for Simone.
528 reviews681 followers
January 9, 2020
It's been quite some time since I've read a historical fiction novel, but it's also been a long time since I've read one based in World War 2. Because there are so many WW2 novels I stopped reading them all together. When I was offered to read a book that covers the war, but also the Japanese internment camps and the all Japanese-American military unit called the 442nd (also known as the most decorated military unit of the United States with the most losses). This particular point in American history isn't really talked about, but it should. It's a point of shame for an entire race of humans who peacefully lived in the United States only to be discriminated and hated against because of their ethnic background. Like, it's sad when Drunk History covers this part of United States history, but you don't hear about it in the classroom.

This Light Between Us follows Alex Maki, a young Japanese American boy living off the coast of Washington state on Bainbridge Island. For all intents and purposes, he's your average teenage boy with a love for comic books and reading. He also has a pen pal since he was 13 years old named Charlie Levy. Charlie is a young French Jewish girl living in Paris and as their friendship grows over the years, the turmoil during World War 2 deepens. On the day the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Alex, his family, and the small Japanese community on Bainbridge Island are immediately met with discrimination. And as the Japanese community is forced off the island and sent to the Manzanar internment camps, Alex shares this all with his pen pal. However, as turmoil in Europe progresses, letters from Charlie come less frequently causing Alex not only to worry about his family but also about his friend.

When American military arrive at the camp, Alex makes the decision to join the army in hopes of freeing his father in prison and finding his best friend in the chaos of war. He joins the 442nd military unit, a regime of all Japanese-American soldiers segregated from other troops because of their race. But as Alex spends years training and fighting, his search for Charlie continues only to find out the truth when the war finally ends.

I have to hand it to Andrew Fukuda. He expertly incorporated two of the major moments in Japanese American history into one book. First is the Japanese internment camps set up after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I loved how Andrew Fukuda captured this moment in history. When the radio announces what happened at Pearl Harbor, the first thing Alex's family experiences is just utter hatred. They were no longer the friendly neighbors who cared about their community, but a threat and an enemy. It was so stark that people would hate them so easily and that really broke my heart. And when they were shipped off to the internment camps, I was so surprised that the conditions there were similar to the ones many immigrants experienced in cages on the border of Mexico and the United States. Talk about watching history repeat itself.

But what I found interesting is how the Japanese spent their time in the camps. For many, it was just trying to get back to a normal routine, but for others it was a slap in the face by the country they were so loyal to. I loved the depictions of how most Japanese tried to make the best of the situation but how others grouped together to revolt. But then it couldn't get worse when the US military came calling to the camps looking for recruits into the US army.

The second was the 442nd military unit which was completely comprised of Japanese-Americans and completely segregated from the rest of the military. They were sent to the front lines of Europe to essentially die, but the 442nd isn't just a group of men willing to lie down for the cause. Instead, they were the hardest fighting unit losing the most men, liberating a concentration camp in Germany, and being awarded the most medals than any other American military unit at the time. Sadly, history doesn't remember it this way.

The flow of this story and the usage of American history is really what I applaud Andrew Fukuda for. He expertly connects a Japanese American to the two distinct moments in their history in America and it really made sense. Although I was skeptic that Alex, the introverted book worm, would join the military, I can understand his reasoning and he didn't run into the situation like some hard-headed teenager. The scenes of war were well described with several losses for Alex making it feel more real. I honestly felt like I was reading the story of someone's grandfather.

However, the book wasn't perfect and I felt the story between Charlie and Alex was secondary to the historical aspects of the story. I loved the letters passed between these two friends and I loved how they conveyed not only their friendship but also what's happening around them. It was definitely difficult for me to read Charlie's letters without the inevitable happening. But during the years Alex was working in the military and deployed to Europe, there wasn't much from Charlie. Instead, Andrew Fukuda uses a small amount of magical realism to portray Charlie as immaterial being that visits Alex while he's in the military. I honestly could have done without that, but it did provide a little bit of a romantic feeling to the story.

But the ending was phenomenal. I'm not happy about what happens because it is tragic and sad, but I like the fact Andrew Fukuda stayed realistic with his storytelling and the ending reflected that.

Overall, great story and if you're already a die-hard fan of historical fiction, then definitely add this one to your list. Read this one if you don't know about Japanese internment camps or the 442nd as well. It's a part of American history that we don't discuss and honestly reflects the world that we live in today.

I received a copy of this book from Tor Teen for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.
Profile Image for Vicki (MyArmchairAdventures).
392 reviews21 followers
December 30, 2019
Look for this gem to come out in January 2020 if you are a historical fiction fan. Though published by Tor Teen, THIS LIGHT BETWEEN US doesn’t read like a teen or YA book.

Though the WWII historical fiction genre seems over saturated, the unique slant in THIS LIGHT BETWEEN US kept me engaged. The start of the book dragged a bit but I think it was necessary to flush out the growing friendship between Japanese American Alex Maki, living on Brainbridge Island in Washington and his French pen pal Charlie, who is actually a girl (much to his dismay) and also is Jewish.

The second half of the book after Pearl Harbor when Alex and his family are forced to leave his home for an internment camp and the German invasion of France, flew by. The impact of the Japanese soldiers who fought in the US forces was fascinating. There was one aspect of the story that could have been left out as it left me a bit confused but a great read for all you WWII historical fiction fans!
Profile Image for Rebecca Grace ✨.
40 reviews1 follower
April 1, 2020
What 👏a 👏book👏

This could be my favorite book I've read this year. It deserves so much more attention because it is so well done and absolutely beautiful!

This Light Between Us is a story of Alex Maki, a Japanese American boy, as he navigates World War II. The book begins as he becomes pen pals with Charlie Levy, a Jewish girl living in France. Despite Alex's grumblings about sending letters to a girl, they quickly hit it off and become close friends. Their friendship is something that they lean on throughout all the trials that ensue in the following years.

That is a quick summary! Here is what I loved:

This book shows a different side of the war: brutality in America, internment camps, life as a Japanese American during WWII, conflicts of patriotism, etc. I would say that I read a lot of books set during WWII, and I was consistently impressed with how different this book felt to me. Internment camps in general should be talked about more! I want to do more research on it after reading this book. Plus, it was weird reading a WWII book where the Americans weren't the "good guys". It was hard to read at times, but this stuff really happened! It emphasized a major point to me that nomatter what, in war all countries involved do terrible things. To say that the Americans were perfect saviors in WWII just because they weren't the Nazi's is a false description. So, I really liked how this book wasn't cliche and clean-cut, it showed the complexities of war and allegiance. It sparked an internal dialogue in me to figure out what I felt about this way of addressing the war. This was just a super interesting element of the story!

Andrew Fukuda is Japanese which adds a lot to his descriptions of Japanese culture and their treatment in internment camps. He clearly knows what he's talking about and has done his research. I really love when an author is tied to a story in a certain way, and you can definitely tell that Fukuda had a huge passion for what he was writing about.

The concept of this story is great. It's original, yet has many elements of any good WWII book. Also, the plot fits together really nicely. Each letter between Charlie and Alex drops a puzzle piece perfectly into the story, and nothing feels unnecessary.

FRANK. I LOVE FRANK. The whole world needs to know that I will marry Frank. I don't think readers were supposed to like Frank as much as I did LOLOLOL!! He is so strong and manly, and he fights for what he believes in. He has flaws, but I don't mind a troubled man 😂😂ok, I'm done. He needs his own book. Period.

The battle scenes are super intense. Yikes!! My heart was RACING. I would say they were a little gory at some points, but they were really well-written battle scenes!

The ending broke me. I am still broken. I was nearing the end of the book thinking, "Wow, I'm almost finished with this book and I haven't cried!" I was honestly quite proud of myself until like five pages from the ending. Then I SHATTERED. The floodgates opened and I cried for the rest of the book. LOL this is so dramatic. But it was the ending that convinced me that this was a five star book. I was so attached to these characters, and the suspense of waiting for Charlie and Alex to meet was so powerful. DON'T WORRY THAT WASN'T A SPOILER

I think I've raved enough. My only critique would be I wish Charlie's perspective was in it more. When I got this book, I thought it was written in dual perspectives, but it's really just Alex's story. Especially towards the end, Charlie is not a focal point and a lot of questions about her journey are never addressed.

Content: like I said, some graphic war scenes, mild cursing, some sexual innuendos. For the most part, though, I thought it was pretty clean. Also, there are a lot of Christian elements which is cool!

Those are my complete thoughts! I would HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone looking for a good historical fiction novel!

May the light between us always lead us home.

Happy Reading! ✨
Profile Image for Brooke.
212 reviews24 followers
January 22, 2020
Japanese American boy Alex Maki, and French Jewish girl Charlie Levy become best friends through their many years of writing pen-pal letters to one another. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, they fight to maintain hope during World War 2 as Alex and his family are placed in an internment camp and Charlie hides from the Nazi invaders. From the horrors of Auschwitz to the desolation of the internment camp to the European battlefields, nothing can dispel this light between them.

Obviously I’ve known about the Holocaust my whole life and have read many books and watched many movies about it over the years. But I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never heard of the Japanese-American internment camps. I don’t know why. Was the overwhelming atrocities of the concentration camps capturing all of my focus? Do books and movies about internment camps exist and I just missed them? Is this information excluded or minimized in textbooks? Either way, I’m trying to learn more about them now. I understand the fear the American government had after the Pearl Harbor attack, but the incarceration of anyone with Japanese ancestry (most of whom were American citizens) was such a horrible attack on civil rights and completely unconstitutional. While America was not the only country to do this, we need to make sure we are well educated so history does not repeat itself.

For the book itself, Fukuda’s writing was truly captivating and very well researched from what I could tell. While it’s the story of these two friends, its told only from the view of Alex, and we’re offered no point of view from Charlie aside from her letters. Despite this, Fukuda still manages to capture the heartbreaking feelings and brutality of those suffering directly from the Nazis. I loved seeing this war through the eyes of Alex, and his internal struggles with his country. The book is basically told in 3 sections: the first follows young Alex and Charlie as they communicate, the second is Alex’s time in the camp, and the third is his time in the military fighting in Europe.

World War 2 and the holocaust is one of those topics that rips my soul apart, and this story was no different. I don’t believe I’ve ever cried so hard while reading a book, and even now writing this review I struggle to hold back tears. This is a book that stays with you for years, and leaves your heart aching every time you remember it. It was one of the most emotional and eye opening stories I’ve read, and I highly recommend it to EVERYONE.
Profile Image for Hannah Z.
76 reviews18 followers
September 15, 2019

This is one of the books that everybody, especially Americans, should read at least once in their lifetime. I honestly wish that I could've read "This Light Between Us" during the time that I was reading "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. In my opinion, that would have been the perfect reading combination.

I don't usually read historical fiction, but as soon as I saw the cover and read the description, I knew that I had to read this book. The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States of America during World War II was horrifying and unfair, but it (along with the Armenian Genocide and the Nanjing Massacre) is completely shadowed by the Nazi Holocaust. This may be an incorrect assumption, but most Americans may not even know of the Japanese Americans internment, Armenian Genocide, and the Nanjing Massacre until perhaps high school, but they have learned of the Holocaust in elementary or middle school. Yes, the Holocaust was still a terrible event that should have never happened, but I'm glad that author Andrew Fukuda also decided to inform readers of the mini-Holocaust that was happening in the United States, the alleged land of liberty and equality. I also really appreciate that the author's research on the events of the Japanese Americans internment (and also how Fukuda dated every chapter -- it makes the book so much more realistic!).

Starting from Alex's brusque response to Charlie's first pen pal letter, this book had me absolutely hooked, and it was not to my surprise that I finished reading this book within three-and-a-half hours. For me, the pacing, though, was a little bit slow near the end, but goodness, THAT ENDING. I wish we got to know more about Charlie's story, but I suspect the unable-to-know-for-certain part was on purpose to indicate the reality of the situation.
Profile Image for Niki (nikilovestoread).
687 reviews77 followers
July 29, 2020
When I'm reading historical fiction, I expect a realistic story set in history. I thought that was what I was getting with This Light Between Us. There was so much attention to detail and a really good story that deserves to be told more often. But, and it's a big but, I hate it when authors unexpectedly throw in some magical realism. I wish it was clear in the description of the book that elements like that are included. To come across them suddenly when I think I'm reading historical fiction pulls me out of the story and I immediately start rolling my eyes. The story had such potential and I did enjoy much of it, but it started losing me quickly as soon as the magic papers showed up.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
1,129 reviews54 followers
January 6, 2020
I read many stories about WW11, but have never read one involving pen pals - Alex and Charlie. A wonderful story which was very well written. It was an emotional story and one that i will not forget any time soon. Recommended. I hope to read more by books by Andrew Fukuda.

My thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for my copy. This is my honest review, which i have voluntarily given.
Profile Image for LianaReads blog.
2,162 reviews172 followers
December 31, 2019
I don’t usually read WW2 books but this one caught my attention and had to read it.
I can only tell you that it’s a great book with a beautiful story and heartbreaking at the same time.
Forced to become pen pals, a lifetime friendship develops between Alex and Charlie who is girl mischief to Alex’s dismay.
I loved how the author tells the story about what went before and after the Pearl Harbour incident and how we get a bit of insight into people’s lives having to go through those horrible situations.
Profile Image for Toni.
Author 1 book45 followers
August 31, 2019
A beautiful story that manages to be both earnest and tough without getting overly sentimental. The story opens with Alex, a young Japanese-American boy living in Bainbridge Island in the 1930/40's, getting slightly miffed when he finds out that his assigned penpal, Charlie, is not in-fact a boy, but a young Jewish girl living in Paris. Although reluctant at first, Alex and Charlie begin a correspondence that lasts years. This part of the book was so affecting as Fukuda really captured the youthful ardency of two nerdy and sensitive kids who are on the cusp of adulthood in the midst of the turmoil of a world at war. Equally, their words carry a solemn urgency as Alex and his family are sent to live in an internment camp and Charlie feels the inevitable presence of the German occupation and specter of what that means for her and her family.

The novel gets darker in mood when Alex decides to join a segregated army company - in large part to make a hail-mary effort to find Charlie. There is much brutality and much heartfelt feeling of camaraderie. Fukuda does an excellent job of conveying the racism toward the Japanese-American troops and the fact that much of their most heroic efforts were erased from the narrative of the American war effort. He clearly drew on real-life events which makes it all the more poignant.

The book is heartbreaking, like war is heartbreaking, It also is truly beautiful and heartfelt in many parts. It's good storytelling. I recommend a read.

Thank you netgally and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sarah.
605 reviews11 followers
August 18, 2019
This was a spellbinding, heart wrenching book. Alex and Charlie are wonderful and unique characters that I loved. I felt like I was right there beside them the whole time, laughing at their letters and then crying as theirs lives plummeted into hell. The setting of this book, during WWII, was unique due to the fact it was not just about the act of fighting. While much of Charlie’s story was left to the imagination you still feel the anguish and pain you know she faced every day. The author wove the two characters and their storylines together quietly and with such skill that you were experiencing both at the same time. I absolutely loved this book. I would love t read more books by this author as their is great talent behind this book.
Profile Image for Amy.
209 reviews2 followers
June 17, 2020
As part of a school assignment, a Japanese American boy becomes pen pals with a French Jewish girl.. Over the years, they become friends through their letters and eventually fall in love, but their dreams of meeting are put on hold by the war.

I had to read it because it's a WWII story, partly set in France. And it was fine. But I never got really invested in the characters.

I did appreciate the perspective of a Japanese American youth who was forced to leave his home for an internment camp. It seems that most WWII historical fiction for children and teens focuses on the war in Europe, rather than on the atrocities committed against Americans on American soil. However, I would probably recommend Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to teens over this one.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,143 reviews21 followers
December 3, 2019
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

So, what did I think?

This book starts off a little slow for me, but the author does it in order to establish the relationship between Alex and Charlie, Alex and his brother Frank, Alex and his father, Alex...well, you get the picture. The majority of the relationships are established at the beginning as well as the feeling of life before Pearl Harbor.

In order to establish the relationship between Alex and Charlie, the author starts the book with a series of back and forth letters. Their relationship starts as a class assignment to write a pen pal. Alex, at first, doesn't want to write letters to Charlie once he discovers she's a girl, but somehow she wins him over and they continue to write each other, even after the assignment is over.

At first I was worried this book would just be a series of letters, but it actually jumps back and forth between letter and third person forms. It was a bit jarring at first, but you quickly get used to it.

Then the reader gets to read about the shift society makes after Pearl Harbor. Curfews, the indifference, the accepted bullying that comes with it and finally, relocation. All of this you experience in third person, with a few letters thrown in. This is how you know what is happening to Charlie in Europe. She tells Alex about the unfair treatment anyone identified as Jewish is suffering and he, in return tells her the same. It draws some interesting parallels.

From relocation the reader is introduced to camp life, the below standard conditions, the hardships and lack of anything to do. Lack of paying jobs, lack of news, lack of privacy, lack of toilets, showers, food, etc. It also touches on the corruption of the people in charge and how soldiers did open fire and killed several people who were only trying to get away. The separation of fathers from their families is prominent here as Alex's father was taken before the roundup and relocation of Japanese Americans and his mother struggles to cope.

So does his brother. Through Frank we see some of the ways this treatment of Japanese American citizens changes their point of view of America. He becomes angry and distant, rarely coming back to the shack they have to share with another Japanese family. Eventually he only come home to sleep. Frank is right in a lot of ways, particularly when he points out to the recruitment soldiers just how well American law has protected the Japanese Americans so far.

Despite that, Alex decides to sign up for the army. It's mostly because the recruitment officer promised to have his father reunited with his mother and brother. Another reason is that he hopes to accomplish the impossible task of finding Charlie, who has suddenly stopped writing him all together. But it's also because, to a far lesser degree, Alex wants to prove himself to all the white Americans. This is where the book finally picks up the pace. If you can make it here, the rest of the book will carry you to the end without issue.

Alex is shipped off to Fort Shelby where he is trained to be a soldier. The difference in the treatment of him and other nonwhite soldiers is obvious. They are given clothes and shoes that don't fit and are pushed hard to try and make them quit. He and other Japanese soldiers are in with Hawaiian soldiers and there is mention of a few African American soldiers during a particular scene involving a racist bus driver. The contrast in treatment becomes exceedingly clear here.

Alex aces the test on the ability to judge distances and becomes the front man for his unit. His job, be one of the first up and scout out targets such as machine gun nests. He then reports to the soldier with the radio the distance and direction of these targets to have relayed back to the men who run the howitzer and therefore launch the shells on these targets.

They are deployed to Europe as a segregated unit, the 42nd regiment, and are thrown into some of the worst fighting. But they have something to prove, so they do it. They get no recognition for the miracles they perform at the cost of many friends. The 42nd regiment was almost completely wiped out in the push to save the Lost Battalion. something like only 26 men from the unit survived. Even less made it home. But no one reported that in the news. Alex becomes friends with a lot of these men over basic training, but the one that really sticks with you, or at least with me, is Mutt.

Alex is one of the few survivors. He is also one of the soldiers that discovers a concentration camp and sees first hand what the Nazis have done to anyone they view as subhuman. Horrified that this is probably what happened to his friend Charlie, he does look for her there. But he finds no sign of her.

When everything is done and the war is over, Alex makes a pit stop in Paris holding out hope that somehow Charlie survived. By some miracle her bedroom is basically untouched and Alex fully realizes just how much his friendship meant to Charlie, as her room is decorated with all the drawings he had sent her over the years.

Alex returns home a war hero, but it's a bittersweet feeling for him.

What I liked:

You may hate me for this, but I deeply respect how Andrew Fukuda made the ending bittersweet .

I like that the author also made me put down this book to do a search on whether or not Paris really had public phone booths. That was a tidbit of information I did not know because I honestly never thought about it.

I also respected how the author picked out major key events, that not too many people outside of america really know about, in the treatment of Japanese Americans both in internment camps and as soldiers and worked them into his story. The injustice and theft by camp officials, the use of deadly force against peaceful protesters as they fled , the American Army basically using their nonwhite, segregated units as cannon fodder.

What I didn't like:

The visions Alex kept having. I know it was to help keep Charlie in the forefront of both our minds and Alex's, but that was just a little bit too weird for my liking.

How we only ever see Alex's parents referred to as Mother and Father. It struck me as a bit odd, but I figured it might be a culture thing? Okaasan and otousan...you know. Formality is a sign of ultimate respect.

The pacing. I know it probably makes me a terrible person, but I found the first half of the book quite...slow. I think it was part III when it finally picked up for me. Now maybe it's because I have read a few similar books that covered the before and during internment camp angle before?? I don't know. But when Alex is deciding to sign up for the army is when my interest really started to peak a bit. When he shipped out to Europe was when I was absolutely riveted. I rushed through the parts taking place in Europe like a thirsty man would to fresh, cold water.

In Conclusion

If it hadn't been for the second half of this book I probably would have only given it a two star ratings because I wasn't connecting to Alex really and therefore I had trouble immersing myself in this book. But when Alex makes key decisions to save his Father from prison by enlisting and thereby saving his mother from despair by giving her back her husband, he had my attention. It was a key moment for him, I felt. Gone was the weak, skinny, shy Alex. It was the moment he truly turned into an adult. An adult intent on trying to save everyone that he holds dear and that got my attention because there isn't anything I wouldn't do for family.

The second half of this book blows the first half out of the water and the ending the author chose completely earned him my respect. War stories rarely have happy endings.
Profile Image for Tasha Leigh.
569 reviews9 followers
December 11, 2019
This novel was amazing. So much so that its midnight and I am frantically tapping out this review in the dark in a corner of my bedroom so as to not wake up the other inhabitants of my house - thank you to whoever invented backlit and quiet keyboards. It took me on an emotional rollercoaster that despite being extremely bumpy, I didn't want to leave until the ride was done. Even then I sat here like that cat Mittens in the meme where he has lost his toy under the fridge, staring at my ereader wondering whether I should eternally hate it or caress it gently for bringing me one of my favourite reads of the year.

The story starts out with Alex and his older brother Frank living their relatively easy life on Bainbridge Island, a settlement mostly populated by Japanese immigrants and the Nisei children. Alex has a pen pal in Paris named Charlie with whom he as been corresponding on a regular basis despite his initial disgust at finding out Charlie is in fact a she. Life is good until the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the catastrophic event that set into motion the segregation and evacuation of all Japanese/Japanese-American occupants to internment camps across the country. Meanwhile Charlie, being Jewish and living in Paris during the German occupation is attempting to avoid detection and removal to an internment camp in Europe simply for existing.

Being an Australian and despite this tale being mostly fiction (as confirmed in the final pages of the novel by Fukuda himself) some character were utilised that were historically accurate; I found myself undergoing an education as to the plight of the Japanese in the US during WWII. While not completely oblivious to America’s treatment of their citizens, I was not aware of the scale of these atrocities. Fukuda describes in great detail the discrimination borne by the residents of the Manzanar camp and invokes a renewed feeling of disgust with every event that unfolds. I found myself on multiple occasions needing to take mental health breaks from this gripping narrative as my heart slowly but surely shattered into a thousand pieces with each death and despicable act.

Alex and Charlie’s story is told through correspondence between the two as well as being narrated in the third person for the most part. In the beginning these letters are frequent and flippant, the children discuss the view from their window and their disdain for certain persons in their life. As the two mature so does their letters content, discussing crushes and their own friendship that crosses oceans, before finally turning to their plight in the war. Eventually the letters stop completely once the war hits its peak devastation and the third person narration takes the forefront. Honestly, at first, I thought this would become tedious but the skill with which Fukuda has intertwined this pairs fates feels effortless and extremely well thought out.

Also, I will give you a heads up. The ending was not what I predicted, and it absolutely, positively killed me. By the final chapters, I was reading this novel through tears (thanks Science for my waterproof e-reader) and was left with a distinct feeling of emptiness which I will now have to fill with something upbeat otherwise I will definitely end up in a slump. This book is so emotionally charged that I will warn anyone who takes the plunge – and you should DEFINITELY take the plunge – expect to feel deflated and emotionally raw, but in a way that provides reflection rather than internalised destruction of your soul.

So as to keep this short, what you really need to know is this. This Light Between Us will take your emotions, tear them out, stomp on them, spit on the remains, rinse and repeat. Rarely have I found a work of literature that has affected me so profoundly as Andrew Fukuda’s latest masterpiece. While starting out sweet and cute, it quickly becomes fraught with danger and rebellion, only to progress to a point where the protagonist Alex will do anything to save bring his family together and attempt to find his lost pen pal. It’s a heart wrenching masterpiece that is not only educational but also ingenious in its mixing of media.
Profile Image for Allie.
246 reviews2 followers
May 17, 2021
This is a lone star next year. I am surprised by this because I wouldn’t recommend this to a middle schooler. It isn’t inappropriate, it is just clearly written for adults. I’m not sure why it is marketed as YA except the main character starts out young. It isn’t what I expected at all. In many places it reminded me of narrative non-fiction. There is a lot of history here that I didn’t know. It was very well written and I liked it.
Profile Image for Mindy.
293 reviews33 followers
December 26, 2019
I absolutely loved this book. I've read others from this author so I went in to this thinking that I knew what level of enjoyment and engagement to expect. Instead, I was blown away. You can tell that this was a passion project from the author. At the end of the book he explains how it came into being and it made my enjoyment of the book increase. The research that went into it was extensive, as historical fiction should be, but it wasn't thrown in there just to tell stories. Each part built upon another and I was just drawn into it very quickly and thoroughly. Though I felt the ending was unsatisfactory, it was perfect and deeply realistic. I wouldn't have written it differently and definitely couldn't have written it more beautifully than Mr. Fukuda did. If you get time, get this book and love it like I did.

I appreciate getting the chance for a copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Danielle Zimmerman.
432 reviews19 followers
December 18, 2019
THIS LIGHT BETWEEN US is a devastatingly beautiful and incredibly rich novel that captivated me from the moment I cracked it open. Centered upon two young people, one a French Jew and the other a Japanese American, as they come of age during a time of great turmoil. And where they’re seen as the enemy by those they considered their fellow countrymen and women. As World War II descends on their communities, they rely on each other for comfort and friendship through flurries of letters back and forth. But when the war reaches their personal shores and threatens their way of life, their friendship and ally ship because even more vital to their survival.

This novel is achingly beautiful. The characters are incredibly well-drawn, especially Charlie whose characterization happens mostly through letters. To invest in the two main characters is to invest in the heart of the novel and while that hurts at times, it’s so worth it.

Though I’ve been aware of the Japanese American interment camps for some time now, I never truly realized or was shown the horrors lurking behind their walls. This is an important story that needs to be told because, frankly, it’s one that few have cared enough to pay attention to and not drown out or speak over. It’s a fascinating view of the war from a couple of perspectives that aren’t often heard but that need to and it’s a story I won’t soon forget.
22 reviews
January 26, 2021
This is an amazing book. I cannot say enough good things about this book. It should be read in schools. The history is spot on, which is important to me. Don't be on the train or waiting for your doctor appointment reading this to pass the time. You will end up crying in the bathroom. This is a book that will stick with me a long time.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
1,151 reviews6 followers
December 16, 2019
I really enjoyed this book. The author gives us two characters that are pen pals from Paris and Washington State. Charlie is a young Jewish girl, Alex a Japanese-American. As the story unfolds during WWII, we see how their lives change drastically and sometimes in shockingly similar ways. I have read books about the Japanese internment camps before. This one really painted a painful picture about what the US did to those who should not have been persecuted. While we mostly follow Alex, I feel the author did a great job at showing the friendship, the struggles each went through, and how they were able to keep hope alive for each other during this awful time.

Thank you NetGalley for an ARC for my honest review.
6 reviews
March 1, 2022
It was a beautiful book about a Japanese American boy and a French Jewish girl. They become pen pals right before the war begins, starting off as an unlikely friendship. But they continue to write over the years becoming very fond of each other. Alex, the boy, has no friends at home and Charlie becomes his only one. Alex wants to become an artist, while his parents, immigrants from Japan, want him to become a doctor or something of that nature. Charlie, always encouraging him to follow his dreams, hanging up every drawing he sent her.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Americans were extremely discriminated against, which isn't talked a ton about in history. They were forced to move out of their homes onto a Japanese only island to hold "the criminals". Around the same time Hitler is taking over, the same general things happened to Charlie. They continue to write each other, being each other's happiness during difficult times.

The mail is stopped between U.S. and Europe do to the war, so they lose contact but Alex doesn't lose faith in seeing her one day. Alex's father was taken away and held captive separate to the rest of the Japanese Americans. They are given an option to start a Japanese only unit for the war. Alex, never being a fighter and has a bright future ahead of him, is advised not to join the war effort. He does anyway, in hope of bringing his father home and maybe seeing Charlie once in Europe.

Alex becomes a great war hero, along with his unit, fighting Nazis and liberating part of the camps. Once the war is won, he goes to Charlies house before the war in hopes that she has returned. And she never did. The neighbors told him that they didn't think she made it. He goes to her bedroom and looks out her window at the Eiffel Tower, something she always dreamed of showing him.

Very well written.
Profile Image for Carole.
307 reviews38 followers
March 25, 2022
Alex is a young, Japanese-American boy who is told to write to a foreign pen pal in the early 1940s. His pen pal is Charlie, a Jewish girl living in France. At first Alex doesn't want to write to her, but his teacher says he must not waste the postage on a one sentence letter. Alex and Charlie write many letters to each other and then December 1941 arrives. The community Alex lives in is shipped off to an internment camp for all Japanese Americans, and the Germans arrive in Paris.
At one point, I felt this was getting to be a bit too long, but I am glad I stuck with it. The ending was different than I had anticipated, but I would recommend this book to historical fiction lovers.
Profile Image for Carli.
996 reviews8 followers
December 10, 2019
Thanks to Macmillan and Netgalley for the advance Kindle copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this 1.7.20 release. Alex Maki, a Japanese American in Washington, and Charlie Levy, a Jewish girl from Paris, become pen pals when they are ten years old. They keep up communication into their teen years. When Alex’s family is taken into an internment camp, Charlie is fleeing for her life from the Nazis. Alex gets the chance to enlist in the war, and sets out with the hope of finding Charlie overseas. This story shows an important part of history, with well-developed characters that truly bring it to life. This is one of the best historical fiction stories I have read this year. Recommended for grades 8+.
Profile Image for Meghan.
2,067 reviews
August 29, 2019
This book was received as an ARC from Macmillan-Tor/Forge - Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

Surprisingly I really enjoyed this book and the message it sent throughout. For the YFiction category, this book has a very different vibe compared to other historical fiction novels. I loved the language used by Fukuda keeping the characters in teenage years using teenage language especially the conversation between Alex and Charlie. I loved how at first they resented the idea of becoming pen pals but later as they wrote to each other they developed a strong bond of friendship that became life or death for them literally. A lot of schools should add this book to their reading curriculum and have discussions with them because the book is powerful in its theme. The book talks about a powerful historical event while blending it with a powerful message that benefits everyone no matter the cost.

We will consider adding this title to our YFiction collection at the library and when the book is release pass it on to our English and History teachers. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
Profile Image for Mindi.
180 reviews
November 7, 2020
I had two issues with this book: 1. the slang! "Yo," "bro," "sucks," etc. peppered the narrative and was incredibly distracting. You would never have known this book was set in the 1930s-40s based on the writing and dialog. (I looked it up because I didn't want to be unfair: "sucks" came into colloquial use in the 1970s, though "suck an egg" dates to the early 1900s; "yo" came into popularity DURING WWII as a response to military roll calls [in Philadelphia], so I doubt the characters would have been using it in Seattle in the 1930s. Bro is harder to pin down.) 2. You really could have taken Charlie out of the novel entirely, and it wouldn't have changed much.

A third note that's totally personal opinion, but the part set in the camp follows the same (real-life) events as Within These Lines, and I think that the characters, even the secondary ones!, made that book more compelling. Like, Harry Ueno was such an endearing character even though he wasn't a huge part of the story. It was hard to get a feel for who he was in this one.

That being said, it was both well-written and interesting, and I did enjoy it.
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