Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The War Outside

Rate this book
A novel of conviction, friendship, and betrayal.

It's 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado--until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.

Haruko and Margot meet at the high school in Crystal City, a "family internment camp" for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day, and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother's health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.

With everything around them falling apart, Margot and Haruko find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone--even each other?

336 pages, Hardcover

First published September 25, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Monica Hesse

12 books992 followers
Monica Hesse is the national bestselling author of the true crime love story American Fire, and the historical mystery novel Girl in the Blue Coat, which has been translated into a dozen languages and won the 2017 Edgar award in the Young Adult category. She is a feature writer for the Washington Post, where she has been a winner of the Society for Feature Journalism's Narrative Storytelling award, and a finalist for a Livingston Award and a James Beard Award. Monica lives in Maryland. with her husband and a brainiac dog.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
890 (23%)
4 stars
1,637 (42%)
3 stars
1,069 (27%)
2 stars
209 (5%)
1 star
39 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 593 reviews
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
602 reviews87.3k followers
January 4, 2022
Monica Hesse has definitely found her way into my auto buy authors. I think if you like Ruta Sepetys' historical fiction, she's an author you'll enjoy as well. This story was so heartbreaking, and I didn't even really expect it to be as heartbreaking as it was somehow. It's about two prisoners in the incarceration camp Crystal City during WW2. You follow a German prisoner and a Japanese prisoner as they find friendship in such an odd and terrifying situation. It has a really quiet plot I found, definitely driven by the characters and their experiences as individuals but also their relationship as it blossomed. The ending took me by complete surprise and left me absolutely shattered. But I'm really glad I finally read this book.
Profile Image for Jessica.
568 reviews775 followers
July 19, 2018
I received an ARC of this book for free from TheNovl in exchange for an honest review. Since I received an ARC, my quotes from the book are tentative.

Last month I read a different YA novel about German American internment and was beyond disappointed by it. When I saw that TheNovl was offering a chance to read and review this book I jumped at the opportunity. Thankfully, The War Outside was a million times better than that other book I read.

This book was so heart wrenching and emotional. There was one incident towards the end that gave me chills and goosebumps.

I loved the dual perspectives and how well the author put you into each girl’s shoes. I also enjoyed the author’s writing style. It flowed easily and sucked you into the story.


I’m glad that the book showed both Japanese American and German American internment. I particularly liked that it discussed how being called the enemy was different for each group. At one point Haruko tells Margot, “I’m so sorry…that your father had to wake up and realize that you had become the enemy overnight. But a least you didn’t have to wake up and realize that other Americans had thought of you as an enemy all along” (148). She then explains, “the reason this imprisonment is hard to Margot’s father is because they didn’t know yet that this country was unfair…The West Coast Japanese had already given the government their shortwave radios, and they had already agreed to their curfew, eight PM to six AM, but it wasn’t enough, it was never enough. It was so easy for the government make those rules. You can’t hate someone all of a sudden. It takes practice. It takes a long time” (148). This is an idea that Margot revisits later in the book when imagining what it would be like to go back home to Iowa. She ponders, “Haruko was right the first time we talked. It was not like with the Japanese. where entire communities went away. With us it was like a scalpel: a German here, a German there, while the rest of the town went about their business” (207). These quotes showcase the idea of how we are not free in America until we’re all free. Everyone’s freedom is in jeopardy if one group loses theirs.

The ending was…WOW. It was one of the best endings I’ve read in a while. It left you thinking about all that happened between the girls and the motives behind their actions.

I liked that the author included a note at the end about the history behind the story. It is evident that she did a lot of research and tried to make it as accurate as possible.

Overall, this was an amazing and powerful novel whose ending will leave you questioning it all.

For more book reviews, be sure to check out my blog: https://oddandbookish.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Terrie's Just Another Book B*tch.
160 reviews140 followers
July 30, 2018

First things first... I believe this is a book everyone should read and absorb. I think it should be on every school reading list. While it is fiction, it's based on enough fact that will catapult the reader back in time to a horrific, (and in this reader's opinion, an embarrassing time,) in US history where we made thousands upon thousands of Japanese Americans suffer for no other reason than racism. A heartbreaking read that opens your eyes to the devastations of the past and what is happening in our present-day America. It's not about politics in this readers opinion, its about people. Human beings deserving more compassion.

The War Outside follows the lives of Haruko and Margot. Both uprooted from their homes and their lives and relocated to the Crystal City Internment Camp. A strange and secret friendship bonds both girls together and will inevitably leave their lives changed forever.

Haruko, a Japanese American from Colorado arrives in Crystal City with her sister and mother to join her father who has already been a resident for several months. The "family" internment camp surrounded by its barbed wire fences and its armed military guards. It's a prison not matter the dressing. Devastated by her arrival Haruko will refuses to let it be anything more than what it is...

“This is not a normal place. This is not a normal time.” ~ Haruko

Margot, a German Amerian, has been a resident of Crystal City for a while. A loner/outsider that stays to herself. For whatever reason, she is drawn to Haruko. An only child, Margot and her mother joined her father at Crystal City early on. She has watched the camp develop and grow. "Happy" to be on the outside. Until a secret friendship with Haruko. A friendship that will teach her (and US..) We are all capable of terrible when we're under horrible circumstances...

“In order to survive here, you have to decide that you choose to be here. You have to find a way to put Crystal City into a box, instead of letting it box in you.” ~ Margot

Beyond difficult to write a spoiler-free review I have to ask you

Can the human spirit remain the same when faced with such betrail...

Do the ends justify the means, when horrible events begin an avalanche of events that no one can avoid...

Are we all capable horrible and irreversible choices when pushed against a wall?

I believe this novel can speak to your soul if you let it.

The War Outside is filled with a rollercoaster of emotion. This novel highlights family, friendship and importantly, of understanding and basic humanity. It's so much more than a history lesson. With the twists, you don't see coming, this novel, and all the emotion it instills will keep you on your toes and unable to stop turning pages. I highly recommend this book. The complex characters the superb writing. I'm surprised at how much I adore this novel. I can tell you that it will forever hold a place in my heart. This novel is not to be missed.

Thanks to thenovl.com for a paperback ARC and Monica Hesse for the opportunity to review.

The War Outside becomes available to readers September 25th

Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA
Profile Image for madeline.
227 reviews97 followers
August 9, 2018
i've decided to change my rating for this to a solid 3 stars. the more i think about this book, the more i realize how mediocre it was for me?? it didn't stick in my mind afterwards, and i don't feel very strongly about it, even about the things i thought i liked.

The War Outside is a World-War-II-era historical fiction novel that talks about the intersecting experiences of two girls whose families are being held in Crystal City, an internment camp. i did like the premise for the novel! WW2 historical fiction tends to be my very favorite type of historical fiction, and somehow i've never read a book about the experiences of those in an internment camp.

the execution of the book was the problem for me. general theme for this review: "underdeveloped"

🌿🌻 characters 🌻🌿

the two main characters of the novel were Haruko, a japanese girl, and Margot, a german girl. i was super interested in Haruko's story in particular because of the Japanese rep!

buuut i didn't end up super loving or hating either character. i mostly felt detached from both of them as well as the rest of the characters in the story. the characterization wasn't the best.

i also didn't think the Asian rep was great. i would have loved to hear more about Haruko's family and experiences being Japanese before the internment camp during this period of American history. something about the comparison of Haruko and Margot's marginalization also turned me off. (i don't remember the exact quote, just that it made me uncomfortable)

the one thing i really loved about the characters was their relationship with each other. (side note: there is NO WAY IN HELL that was platonic or "just a friendship." IT WAS GAY, PEOPLE, GAAAYYYYY.) there was a simple beauty in the way that Margot and Haruko gradually became more comfortable with each other and fell in love. i just wish we could have seen more development out of their relationship!
or maybe a more in depth exploration of their feelings for each other? the book just barely brushed against the idea of girls liking girls, and i wish it had done more with it!

on another note, i DID NOT like how their short relationship was ended and

🌿🌻 world building 🌻🌿

the fact that this took place at a camp which held people of japanese, german, and italian (and also latin american; i read about it afterwards) was super intriguing! it had the potential to be a SUPER POWERFUL & INTERESTING & INTENSE setting.

buut i don't think the full potential of this setting was utilized. i would have liked to learn more about the daily routine of the camp and the small, candid moments (MORE HISTORICAL DETAIL PLS) that made the internment camp such an othering experience for its inhabitants.

don't get me wrong, the setting was pretty well written, but it could have been better.

🌿🌻 plot 🌻🌿

there wasn't really any plot in this book, which really wouldn't bother me as i am most definitely a characters-over-plot person however, at the end of the book the author tried to create some kind of high tension, climax-of-the-plot-moment, and there wasn't any plot to add a climax to, resulting in a bit of a disappointing end to the story.

i thought that the twist at the end about Ken was kinda irrelevant, didn't work well with the rest of the story, and was mostly predictable. 🤷🏻‍♀️

one event in the story that i though worked well was the swimming pool scene & the aftermath of this referencing the Manzanar uprising. this sequence of scenes was super well-written and made a powerful point.

the book felt short and unfinished. all the events at the end felt rushed, and the pacing of the book was not my favorite. and it was just barely 300 pages! there was definitely room for some more story in there! it felt more like a collection of events than a completely cohesive novel with tension and a plot. plus, the ending felt pretty abrupt.

one last thing: the writing. i know this isn't a debut, but it kinda read like one anyway. it felt a bit amateurish, and i wasn't in love with it. there are certain books that immerse me in their writing style, like i forget i'm even reading at all, but unfortunately, i did not feel that with this book.

OVERALL: the book kept brushing up against important topics. it could've been a truly amazing book if it had head-on tackled these topics. it felt like it was trying to appeal to more general audiences by giving readers just a taste of queer rep and having a pretty bland plot. i wish that it had approached the premise with more precise historical information. maybe it's the fact that i read Pachinko just before this (a TRULY AMAZING adult historical fiction novel), but this book just paled in comparison with all the beautiful detail Pachinko had. i would recommend this to younger YA readers though!
Profile Image for Zulaima.
202 reviews51 followers
March 11, 2023

I seldom pick up historical fiction, let alone World War II-centric books (I probably don't have the stomach to bear it). Still, I thought this novel would be an excellent opportunity to educate myself on one of those topics that aren't usually discussed in World War II literature (at least that I know of); Internment Camps in the United States.

So yes, the premise sounded indeed very promising. I was especially drawn to it because the story focuses on a friendship for once instead of a romance. But if truth be told, this was the one time I actually hoped for a (tragical and heartwrenching) romance because it would have made for such an interesting (and way more intense) experience.

But then again, I think we all know that this wasn't just a friendship, AM I RIGHT? Obviously, they're not canonically gay (heaven forbid someone would write about an actual femslash/LGBTQ romance in a World War II novel), but Haruko's and Margot's beautiful dynamic - peppered with a lot of (not so subtle) homoeroticism - was as explicit as it can get (without being explicit) if y'all know what I mean…

Since I pretty much queer-read anything and everything anyway, I'm just going to call this a romance now, deal with it. I mean, are you seriously going to try and convince me this wasn't what I think it was?

"I guess I misunderstood what we were." What were we? My hands are tingling, and I'm feeling this conversation in my whole body. I take a few steps closer. "Margot, tell me what you think we were." She freezes like a frightened deer. Like my question has terrified her. She looks over her shoulder for an escape. But there isn't an escape. Not from what we're talking about. Not from what is dwelling in my chest. "You know", she whispers, "I don't… " "Tell me! " "I can't" "The last time we were in here, Margot…" Colour rises in her cheeks. "The old man interrupted us." Just five days ago. Even though it feels like a lifetime, and whatever happened then feels so important. But it was also, one moment. How can I be expected to make decisions about my whole life based on one moment? For a person, I've known barely a month. For a feeling that was so fast and so strong that I could barely even describe.

I guess I misunderstood what they were as well. Or did I? *raises eyebrows* So, the friendship romance was clearly the core (and the best part) of this novel. Other than that, it was excruciatingly mediocre and at times forgettable.

Somehow, the prose wasn't bad or bland, yet it didn't bring to life anything either… it simply described, rather matter-of-fact-like (which is confusing, since there are two different PoVs, thus it shouldn't feel factual at all).

The emotions fell flat in most scenes (except when Haruko and Margot were together, or Haruko talked/thought about her brother) and I couldn't shake the feeling that there was some invisible wall between me and the characters as well as the setting and the story.

Obviously, the war itself is happening outside (weeeee, title reference!!!), and thus the cruelty, the horror, and the meaninglessness of it aren't emphasized in this novel. Nonetheless, both of these girls are trapped in Crystal City. They're prisoners. Their families have been declared enemies of the state. It’s a tricky situation.

Yet for some reason I never actually felt their struggle, their uncertainty, or their fear, instead, I was told about it… repeatedly. I simply felt so damn detached from it all so I didn’t care that much in the end, apart from the scene where Margot and Haruko broke up (I SOBBED… LIKE A BABY).

Margot finds me and our eyes lock. She on one side of the fence, I on the other. I don't know why I'm walking toward Margot but when she sees me do it, her eyes melt with relief or maybe even remorse. My fingers brush against hers, through the fence. The contact makes my fingers spark with static electricity. And suddenly I don't want to know. However she apologises, it won't be enough. I drop my hand and pull away. She shakes her head. I can't bear to look at her face. Margot stands at the fence and her gaze doesn't leave me the whole time. I see her eyes are still on me. Forgive me, her eyes are saying. And the only thing my eyes are saying in return is: never.
Profile Image for Jane (It'sJaneLindsey).
446 reviews516 followers
September 26, 2018
I loved the premise, and parts of this novel felt all too relevant to our current politician climate (you know, since we’re once again holding families and children in camps in the US, which is...fucked up). But The War Outside never went far enough for me. So much of this stayed surface level and I wanted MORE. I wanted more of the budding romance between our two protagonists, more insight into daily life in the camp, and more of an actual plot so there was sufficient tension building to the big reveal (which I honestly didn’t like that much). Unfortunately this book just didn’t quite deliver for me, but I still think it was an important story and I’m glad I read it.
November 21, 2018
I'm ashamed to say I had no clue about this dark piece of World War II history until I was around 22 years old.  When we learned about WWII in school, Japanese internment camps were never discussed in the text books or in the classroom.  
When I found out that over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry were taken from their homes and incarcerated under an executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, I was stunned.  There was a lot of paranoia about foreign spies who could interfere with the war effort within the U.S.  
This government paranoia caused panic and hysteria for citizens and they all somehow managed to justify this xenophobia by claiming that individuals of Japanese ancestry (62% of which were American citizens!) were a danger to our country.

The release of The War Outside by Monica Hesse grabbed my attention immediately because this isn't a piece of history discussed often and also because I was interested to see how the topic would be handled in a YA novel.  While some may find this an unusual novel for the YA genre, I think YA is the perfect audience for historical fiction tackling a lesser known piece of history that holds some powerful emotions.  It can create discussion and most importantly teach a history lesson by allowing readers to step in to shoes of characters they can identify with to really drive these emotions home.  Also, let's not forget that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

In The War Outside, it's 1944 and we're taken to Crystal City, a family internment camp that houses both Japanese and German Americans accused of colluding with enemies of the United States.  We meet Haruko and Margot, both students at the Federal high school in the camp.

"I don't want you to ever forget where you are. You are a prisoner here. I don't care if you have a new friend, or if there's a school newspaper, or if there are books in the library, or if there are community picnics. Or if there's a football team everyone comes out to cheer for. At the end of the day you're a prisoner in the only way that matters. If our family wanted to leave, they wouldn't let you."

Margot has been at Crystal City for several months with her mom and dad.  Her dad is frustrated by their circumstances and worries about the home they were forced to leave behind and also his wife who is in the middle of a difficult pregnancy.  Margot is struggling under the strain placed on her family: her parent's marriage and her mother's pregnancy are both at risk and they all feel helpless.
Haruko, her mother, and sister are all new to the camp.  

Haruko's father was sent months to Crystal City months ago, after some people from the government showed up at their apartment and accused him of sharing state secrets.  Haruko's older brother Ken, a member of the 442nd (an all-Japanese American unit stationed in Europe) sends brief letters but she is the only one who notices they don't sound at all like the brother she remembers.  

Margot is quiet and unusual, Haruko is popular and confident but the two form an unlikely friendship.  They face the devastation and confusion of being betrayed be the only country they have ever known while each struggling with their families to find their place in the world; dreaming of life outside the barbed wire fence.  The two girls witness the distrust the Germans and Japanese have for one another while both are considered enemies of their country for different reasons.

I do not want to give spoilers, I'll only say that there are events that set in to motion a life altering change for one of the main characters.  What appears to be a heartbreaking  betrayal turns out to be the extreme lengths someone will go to in order to ensure her safety and that ending will stick with me for a long time to come!

I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record in my YA reviews but it has to be said:  the story lacked character development and I didn't feel there was enough overall exploration of some of the major plot points or character's emotions.  I just wanted more because this was a powerful story told in the alternating voices of potentially compelling characters!

I'm impressed by the research Hesse put in to the history of internment camps, especially Crystal City. She includes a note on historical accuracy at the end of the novel and explains where some of her ideas for characters and events originated.

If you love historical fiction and/or YA, this is a strong read about a time in American history few know about.  I'll definitely be picking up some of the non-fiction books/memoirs Hesse recommends in her notes.
Profile Image for Keelin Rita.
350 reviews22 followers
December 18, 2018

Rounded up to a 4 because I want more people to read this. This is the story of two girls who are in an internment camp for enemies of the state during World War 2. One is German, the other Japanese and they build an unlikely friendship and closeness due to their circumstances. Why do I want people to read this? Well it's about a part of our history that we try to cover up. It's also a queer story which is covered up even more. People like to act like queer people weren't invented until the 50s/60s and I'd hate to break it to you fam, but that's not correct.

This isn't like groundbreaking literature, it's a simple historical fiction novel about two girls struggling because of decisions made by other people. And it's a good story.
Profile Image for BookNightOwl.
972 reviews168 followers
May 10, 2019
Was going to rate this a 3 star until I got to the ending and it left me speechless. Did not see the ending coming and it made so much sense to me. I like this story because it was something different then what I have ever read about. It was about a Japanese American and German American girl whose family are sent to an internment Camp during WW2. It deals a lot with racism, friendship, family, etc.
Profile Image for ~Bellegirl91~.
602 reviews86 followers
October 13, 2019
***2 1/2 to 3 stars.... can't decide. I'm torn between there***

So I wasn't in the mood to read and listen to any of the other two books I was already on and so I saw this audiobook available on the Libby App and I have to say this wasn't what I was expecting. It was an okay read/listen to for me. And despite being sick all week and now feeling MUCH BETTER I'm still surprised I made it through this in two days considering but that's also because I've been upping the speed on the app on my audiobooks on Libby lately and so I get through them a little faster.

I did find it interesting to read how the author had receieved her own inspiration for this book and the story she came up with, and I'm sure she put a lot of effort into her research to come up with this story. I personally however couldn't get into it as much nor the story. The only thing I didn't like the most though is that I WISH there was at least an epilogue if it consisted of 2 or 3 chapter or one long chapter because I actually wanted to know what happened to these two after the war. I mean, I found the twists of each girl at the end of the last two chapters interesting, but I just felt like it lacked an Epilogue. An aftermath or sorts. But overall a still worth read book. I also felt like it rushed into things and had some random moments once in a while, but then with one tragic story with a turn of events, it was heartbreaking yes, but again because of it is why I wish there was an Epilogue.

The ending to me felt bland, "boring," majorly lacked something, despite as to the WHY of the story and one of the character and why they did what they did. So this was an okay read for me. But I'd still recommend it to those who like either historical fiction, WWII Historical Fiction or just want a good book to read. This just didn't quite cut it for me is all and I wish I could have liked it as much as many other readers. So read this for yourself and see what you think since this spoke to some but it didn't to me and idk why which I can't grasp. *face palm* oh well. Anyway, happy reading and if anyone has read this I'd love to know your thoughts on it! Hope you had or will have better luck than I did.

Profile Image for daniela sofia.
564 reviews117 followers
May 7, 2019

Sempre teve interesse em assuntos relacionados com a grande guerra, apesar desse tema chocar-me imenso e deixar-me um pouco revoltada por todos aqueles que sofreram evito muitas vezes ler livros desse tema. Conto pelos dedos da mão quantos livros li desse tema, sei sempre que irei acabar por chorar e ficar revoltada. De todos os que li (poucos, mas bons) aquele que mais tocou-me foi O Rapaz de Pijama às Riscas, logo depois está um clássico (sim, considero um clássico que todos deviam ler) está O Rouxinol de Kristin Hannah e por fim, o mais aclamado (não achei nada de mais, mas é uma boa história) A Rapariga Que Roubava Livros do Zusak.

Quando o novo livro da Monica Hesse chegou cá a casa fiquei um pouco de pé atrás. Estaria realmente preparada para este livro? Iria conseguir ler este livro apesar de fugir a sete pés do tema? Não demorei muito para ganhar coragem e ler o livro, graças ao facto de ter sido o escolhido pela Helena Magalhães para o #HMBookGang de Abril. Assim que iniciei a leitura só pensei vou demorar séculos a avançar a leitura, vão todos terminar e eu ainda vou estar a chorar com a história. Não me interpretem mal, sou uma leitora rápida, mas quando se trata de temas verídicos eu torno-me uma criança e faço birra. Emociono-me e perco-me a pensar no que as pessoas passaram. E perguntam vocês: quantos dias demorei a ler A Guerra Aqui Tão Perto? Menos de 24 horas, porra.

Só não terminei este livro mais cedo porque tive de dormir. Fiquei até cerca da 1 da manhã para avançar mais um capítulo, só mais um capítulo, vocês sabem. Acordei mais cedo porque realmente queria saber onde esta história tão incrível e mágica me iria levar. Não considero que seja dos melhores livros do tema, tem uma história intensa e com imenso significado. A autora tem uma escrita cativante, agarra a nossa atenção bem rápido e de uma forma que choca. Não brinco quando vos digo que trezentas páginas voam num abrir e fechar de olhos. Uma leitura super fluída, com personagens muito bem delineadas e um enredo de gritar aos ventos de tão bom que é.

Monica Hesse trouxe-nos o melhor dos dois mundos. Se eu, uma pessoa que não é fã de Romance Histórico, se deixou render, então não sei do que vocês estão à espera para irem a correr comprar este livro. Infelizmente, como acontece sempre que gosto imenso de um livro, nunca tenho as palavras certas para descrever o quanto gostei dele. Posso dizer-vos que tanto a Haruko e a Margot bem poderiam ser pessoas reais, e acredito quase que esta história aconteceu pela forma como a escritora narra tudo de forma tão natural, tão fundamentada. Este género de livros implica muito mais do que sentar e escrever, implica pesquisa e investigação, a autora conseguiu conjugar a realidade e a ficção de uma forma inexplicável.

Adoraria voltar no tempo para ter a oportunidade de ler este livro novamente. Adoraria voltar a sentir todas aquelas emoções, sentir as lágrimas quase a cair e o coração a dançar de felicidade. É um livro de tem uma história triste, mas a mensagem que passa deixa-nos tão felizes. Por favor, leiam este livro, vão ficar nas nuvens.

Profile Image for Kayla.
984 reviews65 followers
December 24, 2018
I received a copy of this book from The Novl in exchange for my honest review.

Ya'll, I love reading historical fiction, particularly if it's set in the WWII era. I just think there are so many stories left to tell about that time period and, especially as time goes on, it's particularly important to ensure everyone is educated on this history. After all, if we don't learn from it, history is doomed to repeat itself, and the way the world is going today . . . Well, this book is particularly relevant.

The War Outside talks about an era of American history that is usually (purposefully) left untold. During WWII, civilian families from both Japan and Germany were taken to camps and left there throughout the duration of the war. They were regarded with suspicion, and some in the early stages of the war were given the option to go back to the countries they had emigrated from. In these cases, usually the children had been born in America and had little connection to Japan or Germany. The families who remained in America after the war after returned to find . . . nothing. That their homes had been seized or looted, that their belongings had been taken and sold off. If they hadn't given anything to the neighbors for safekeeping--if those neighbors could be trusted--then these families were left stranded with only what they'd taken with them in the camps.

This book tells the story of two girls in one of the camps. One is German. One is Japanese. But, really, they're both American. The book is told in a dual point of view so you can understand the full scope of what is happening. The racism. The hatred. The divisions that occur even between groups of people who are all being held in camps against their will. Through it all, Haruko and Margot form an unlikely friendship. As you come to understand why both have been brought there, and the difficult choices their families are made, you really come to care for these girls. But they're good characters, in that they aren't perfect. And their flaws make for some interesting pieces of the plot that will leave you wanting more.

The War Outside isn't a very happy story, but it's a good one, and it's an important one. We need to see what it was like for these girls. We need to see where everything went wrong. The relationship between the two is hard and complex, and I think it will help readers to better understand, and empathize with, the situation. Everyone should read this book--everyone needs to know what happened, so it can never happen again.
Profile Image for Jaye Berry.
1,344 reviews123 followers
July 19, 2019
I don't know what I was thinking. When it comes down to it I just don't like books that take place during WWII but I figured, hey, I really liked this author's other book Girl in the Blue Coat so maybe I could like this one! I did not.

The War Outside is about two girls who meet in Crystal City, a "family internment camp" for German and Japanese-Americans families that are accused of siding with the enemy in 1944. Haruko and Margot meet at the high school and learn they are complete opposites, but end up forming a secret friendship anyway. Haruko is worried about her solider brother and her father that is hiding something. Margot is trying to keep her family together while her mother's health fails and her father fraternizes with nazis.

This book deals with a topic in history that isn't really talked about enough and for that, good. But for the rest? I was just bored. I'm going to be honest but the only part that really did it for me was the author's note on history in the back where she talks about the real people she took inspiration from and the history of the camp.

Everything about this story itself and these fictional characters was just so bland and the ending is so disappointing. The plot is just people living in an internment camp and how everyone tried to move on with their lives behind bars, just doing basic day to day things. It isn't really building to anything and it had such a slow pace for being such a short book. I still don't feel like much even happened. It's called the war outside and yet we never get to see any of it. I never even really felt the time period.

This has a secret friendship and even teases at it being something more but nothing has time to develop so I just didn't care enough. Literally everything in this book just felt underdeveloped.

While I would still recommend Girl in the Blue Coat, this book just wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,824 reviews35 followers
February 2, 2020
Two girls, Haruko and Margot become unlikely friends when both are sent with their families to an internment camp in Texas during World War II. Japanese-American Haruko is from Colorado; German-American Margot is from Iowa. What makes this one different from other World War II stories is not only does it take place in the United States, it is about German-Americans living in internment camps. (I did not know about this part of American history.)
The girls plot a future together after the War ends; they'll move to San Antonio, get an apartment, find jobs, etc. Could it really happen? Or will circumstances at the internment camp lead to a different ending for both girls?
Learn more about the internment camp experience in this story for teens and young adults. What were the joys? What were the difficulties?
Profile Image for Tita.
1,878 reviews178 followers
January 19, 2020
Haruko e Margot são duas jovens, uma de família japonesa, outra de família alemã, a viver em pontos distantes dos EUA mas, em plena 2ª Guerra Mundial, ambas as famílias são levadas para um campo no Texas, onde "inimigos" do país são "convidados" a viver.
Tive conhecimentos destes campos americanos, o ano passado, sendo que fiquei muito curiosa quando percebi que a acção se passava num destes campos.
É uma narrativa simples e directa, talvez fruto de ser para um público mais YA, no entanto, mostra-nos duas jovens resilientes e como têm personalidades e formas diferentes de se adaptar à vida no campo. No entanto, e apesar de realidades diferentes, estas duas jovens, tornam-se amigas. E as duas jovens apresentam-nos as duas visões da guerra e até mesmo do campo, levando-nos a pensar como, apesar das diferenças, podem ter visões tão assertivas. É também curioso verificar que, apesar de tanto o Japão e a Alemanha serem vistos como inimigos dos EUA, as famílias japonesas foram levadas para estes campos quase em massa, enquanto que as de origem alemã tiveram uma escolha mais selectiva.
Apesar dos relatos da vida do campo, esperava mais "dificuldades", mas detalhes sobre estes campos, e acabou por se focar mais no papel da amizade destas duas jovens, tornando a história "morna". No entanto, os twists no final deixaram-me de boca aberta e fizeram-me passar de 3 para 4 estrelas.
Uma belíssima história de amizade!
Profile Image for Michaela.
1,342 reviews66 followers
November 10, 2020
Zaujímavý štýl písania. A aj téma je mimoriadne zaujímavá, o internačných táboroch v USA počas druhej svetovej vojny som mala len matnú predstavu. Príbeh zasadený do tábora Crystal City si vyžiadal podrobnejšie pátranie autorky a myslím, že zvolila tínejdžerom prijateľnú románovú podobu. Spomínajú sa tu aj skutočné udalosti, napr. stavba bazéna, pálenice, továreň na tofu, nemožnosť získať čajové konvice, či pôsobenie väzenskej doktorky, žetónové peniaze atď.. Napriek tomu všetkému je príbeh rozvíjajúceho sa vzťahu (priateľstva... možno aj lásky) nevyhnutný a zároveň nevšedný, ale vieme si to domyslieť z gest, skutkov či dotykov. Stretnutie dievčat z rôznych kútov Ameriky sa odohráva na tom najnepravdepodobnejšom mieste. Keď ich otcov umiestnili do tábora, neskôr ich rodina dobrovoľne nasledovala. Technicky vzaté, ony väzeňkyňami nie sú, ale priestor ohradený plotom a stráže sú reálne, je to odteraz ich každodenná realita. Nie je to ich domov, no už nemôžu odísť. Nemožnosť študovať, čo ich zaujíma, aj nemožnosť hlásiť sa k niekomu, kto k nim nepatrí, nekonečné počítanie väzňov a ich rodín je frustrujúce. Obe sa cítia byť viac Američankami, ako späté s japonskou, či nemeckou komunitou, no putá ich rodiny sú pevnejšie. Lebo rodina je niekedy jediná, čo im ostáva. Aspoň si to myslia. No a keď sa stabilita rodiny otrasie, kde nájdu útočisko? Čitateľ sa dozvedá o udalostiach z tábora raz podané pohľadom Margot, potom rozpráva zase Haruko. Obe protagonistky si na začiatku, alebo na konci kapitoly vezmú slovo a dopĺňajú situáciu svojimi postrehmi. Je to osviežujúce, možno to niekoho aj zmätie, ale je to dôležité, lebo niekedy ich pohľad zmení úplne celé vyznenie udalostí.
Práve takáto pravda, kde má každý svoj uhol pohľadu, je presne to, čo mám rada na historickej fikcii. Bolo to presne takto? Alebo ak nie, prečo? Kniha, ktorá si kladie otázky a núti premýšľať aj čitateľa. Odporúčam mladším čitateľom. A nemôžem prezradiť, o čo presne ide, nenakúkajte dopredu na záver knižky, nech sa pekne dostanete k pravde...
Profile Image for Sofialibrary.
252 reviews248 followers
April 13, 2019
Confesso que não conhecia esta parte da história da segunda guerra mundial sobre um campo no Texas onde estão refugiados que vivem na América mas estão acusados de conspirar contra o país.
Este romance histórico fala de uma história de amizade entre duas meninas de nacionalidades distintas que parecem tão diferentes e distantes mas que afinal conseguem antecipar tão bem as alegrias e tristezas uma da outra.

Para além da amizade da Haruko e da Margot é possível conhecer outras histórias e o dia a dia no campo. Uma história muito triste, real e injusta.
Profile Image for Emmi Rose  (emmirosereads).
239 reviews36 followers
July 5, 2018
Thank you to TheNovl for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for a review

"I don't want you to ever forget where you are. You are a prisoner here. I don't care if you have a new friend, or if there's a school newspaper, or if there are books in the new library, or if there are community picnics. Or if there's a football team everyone comes out to cheer for. At the end of the day you're a prisoner in the only way that matters. If our family wanted to leave they wouldn't let you."

If this review makes little to no sense I'm apologizing in advance because I'm just filled with so much emotion after finishing this beautiful book. I don't have enough of the right words to express everything I feel. 😂

When I think back on my other five star reads and my feelings surrounding them they're so different compared to my feelings on The War Outside. I'm the type of person to pick up a book for simple entertainment and to relax, because of this I'm likely to rate more on my overall enjoyment and entertainment of the book. I feel like I have to approach this rating from a different angle as I don't feel this is a book that should be picked up unintentionally just for simple entertainment because it is so much more then that and it deserves so much more then that. It's raw, it's real, it's impactful. For about 80% of this book, all that was going through my head was simply just, wow. Giving this book anything less than five stars just feels wrong.

Monica Hesse's writing is absolutely incredible and so immersive. I never felt like I was pulled away from the story. It felt all too real and like I was right there living this life with Haruko and Margot. Monica managed to do what I feel is so hard to do right, and that's to write in multiple first person POV's that don't feel awkward or too similar to the other POVs. I think each POV was realistic and distinct and I cannot imagine this being written in any other kind of style. I believe that was part of why this book was so immersive.

Monica Hesse managed to tug along my emotions with each of these characters. I was holding my breath and tense when they were, shocked and hurt when they were, ect, ect.
I also loved the little, almost, side notes that are scattered throughout the story told from either one of the two characters. If you've read the book you'll know what I'm talking about. They really added another layer to the whole book and caused even more of an impact.
Also that ending, THAT ENDING!! That's all I want to say because I obviously don't want to spoil anything. I think it was so genuis and it really causes you to think.

I think there's just something about those authors who can write historical fiction in such a way that even causes you to think about current times and ask questions. Maybe even uncomfortable questions. The Historical events that this book was based off of didn't even happen 80 years ago and that's a strange thought.

I've marked so many areas of this book and that's something I don't often do. When I do it I usually mark my favorite quotes or lines but I have so many scenes marked that just hit me hard, and so many quotes and sayings that did the same thing. Something that really struck me were those moments where these characters have to be reminded that this was not normal or right. whether they truly believed that it was or it was simply a coping mechanism because thinking anything else would be too much.

This is not a story or side of World War II that gets told often or at all I feel like, and it's reminding me just how many sides there were to this war, just how many different believes people had in this time and how many stories that haven't been told yet. But long messy review in short this book is incredible and real and important! You must read it as soon as you can get your hands on it!
Profile Image for Kath (Read Forevermore).
67 reviews19 followers
July 5, 2018
An arc of this book was sent to me by The NOVL/Little Brown Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Rating: 4.5/5

The War Outside is a heartbreaking historical fiction that highlights one of the darkest times in US history. It tells the story of two friends in internment camps used by the US during WWII, who are conflicted and struggle with trust, love, and finding a place for themselves in a cruel world.

This story follows two friends, Japanese-American Haruko and German-American Margot, that tells a story of a forbidden friendship. It was absolutely heartbreaking, and reading these characters made me feel so many emotions. They were so well developed and the writing in this story was so captivating and beautiful. This book also does highlight some LGBTQ+ elements, and I found it quite enjoyable in a historical fiction that takes place during WWII.

This story took place at an internment camp during WWII, Crystal City, the only camp that housed both Japanese-Americans and German-Americans. In this story, we see the day-to-day life of those who were forced into these camps, and the injustices they faced while there.

This is a beautiful coming of age story, and I highly recommend this story for those who enjoy reading historical fiction or WWII based books.
Profile Image for Kamis.
256 reviews6 followers
November 13, 2018

I didn't love this book as much as Hesse's debut novel. I was really interested to read it, because it deals with internment camps, and that's something I haven't read a lot on dealing with WWII. However, things just fell a little flat for me. I feel like there was so much more that could have been done here and wasn't.

We got a little glimpse of life in the interment camp, but not enough to really know what it was like, which was disappointing because that's what I was most looking forward to reading about. I really wanted to see what life was like there, but I came away knowing hardly anything more than I already did.

There also wasn't much of a plot until almost the end of the book, and then everything felt rushed and out of place. It didn't quite seem to fit with the rest of the novel. The ending also left me feeling unsatisfied, because there's no closure for either Margot or Haruko. We have no idea what happened to either of them. The novel just kind of ends abruptly, leaving you wondering if you missed something.

It's not a bad book, and I still enjoyed it for the most part, but there definitely could have been more to it.
Profile Image for Bicho da Galáxia.
157 reviews194 followers
May 17, 2019
O livro do mês do @hmbookgang e o segundo que leio da Monica Hesse (a onda foi tal que li mesmo de seguida!!).
Esta é a história de Haruko e Margot, uma japonesa e outra alemã, respectivamente, que vivem em pontos distantes dos EUA. No auge da Segunda Guerra Mundial ambas são forçadas a recomeçar as suas vidas, com as suas famílias, num campo de refugiados do Texas e ambas encontram-se, criando uma amizade secreta.
Vamos tendo capítulos alternados narrados por cada uma delas e acho isso muito importante para entendermos a evolução pessoal de cada personagem e as suas motivações (E ISSO É BEM IMPORTANTE NESTE LIVRO!!).
É uma leitura absorvente, que me partiu o coração e com surpresas que não esperava encontrar.
Todas as pessoas o deviam ler, deviam sentir o que este livro nos faz à alma e à mente. Será que os fins justificam os meios? Será a traição um acto exclusivamente egoísta e sem possibilidade de terceiras interpretações?
Profile Image for Maria Carmo.
1,812 reviews47 followers
August 2, 2019
Intense sad and compelling. The research about the internment camps in the US during the second world war ended up in this excellent and touching book about two fictional characters, but in the end there is enough information to prove that many of the details that come up through the story are real and can easily be found online. I know, because I did that before I ended the book and found the extra information included by the Author, and immediately found a trove of data about Cristal City and other US Internment Camps. How appropriate that it would be published now, amidst all the controversy of immigrants detained at the borders or held under conditions of duress...

Definitely a good read, heartbreaking but crystal clear...

Maria Carmo,

Lisbon, 2 August 2019.
Profile Image for Elise.
391 reviews28 followers
September 27, 2018
Unfortunately, for me, The War Outside failed to carry the same character development and emotional depth of her first book, Girl in the Blue Coat. However, this is an important addition to any library young adult collection, as it focuses on the dark period in American history where the US government forcibly removed German-American, Japanese-Americans, and Italian-Americans from their homes and sent them to internment camps.
3 reviews
April 30, 2021
Great read! I think I liked her book, The Girl in the Blue Coat, better, but this was still enjoyable.
Profile Image for Alex  Baugh.
1,950 reviews108 followers
September 16, 2018
It's August 1944 when Haruko Tanaka, 17, her sister Toshiko, 12, and her mother have just arrived at the Crystal City Internment Camp, in Texas to join their father. They haven't seen Ichiro Tanaka, in five months, not since the government came and removed him from their home, accusing him of passing secrets to the Japanese through his night job at a hotel in Denver, Colorado. Living in Denver, the Tanaka's weren't interned, unlike the people living on the western coast of the United States. Shortly after Mr. Tanaka was detained, Ken, Haruko's older brother, enlisted in the army.

Watching the Japanese families arriving in Crystal City is Margot Krukow, a German American girl, interned in Crystal City with her German-born parents. As the families begin to walk away from the gate, Haruko and Margot catch each other's eye. But it isn't until Haruko's first day of school at the Federal School that she finds out who Margot is. Sitting next to each other, they completely ignore one another while being completely aware of each other. Generally, Japanese and Germans internees don't mix in Crystal City, going to separate schools, shopping in separate commissaries, but Margot chooses the Federal School because the German school is too Nazi for her and isn't accredited.

It isn't until a dust storm hits that the two girls finally speak. Margot pulls the confused Haruko into the icehouse, and before she knows it, Haruko is pouring her heart out to Margot, telling her things she can't tell anyone else. Slowly over time, the two girls find they are attracted to each other, using their meetings in the icehouse to escape the pressure and tension they both feel within their families and at being in an internment camp. Haruko can't help but wonder whether he is guilty of espionage or not, and continually worries about her brother, whose letters are beginning to sound less and less like the Ken she knows.

Margot worries about her mother's health, concerned that her pregnancy will end in miscarriage like the previous ones. And concerned that her father will finally be won over by the Nazi contingent among the Germans in the camp, and that he also may be guilty of aiding the enemy.

When a tragedy strikes the camp, things come to a head and the two girls begin to wonder if they can really trust one another. Because of the way the novel is structured, however, the reader knows right from the beginning that the friendship is doomed and that some kind of betrayal has happened, but not what it is or why. The basis of the novel are the events leading up to that betrayal, if you can really call it that.

The War Outside is told in alternating points of view, switching between Haruko and Margot to give both sides of their story in this family internment camp and the events that lead to the conclusion. It is told from the perspective of the present but there are interruptions by both girls that refer to the narrated events from a future perspective. It's an interesting device and by the second interruption (there aren't that many), I did not find them at all disconcerting, but rather interesting and made me even more curious to see what they are talking about.

Still, given the way the relationship between the girls unfolds, and the way their respective home lives are depicted, I wondered where this novel or should I say where the relationship between the two girls was going. The writing is certainly compelling, the descriptions of life in this particular internment camp are incisive and accurate, all of the characters are realistically flawed and believable, but in a place where there was no privacy, where armed guards watched internees from towers spaces along fences topped with the barbed wire, and walls were paper thin, and where Germans and Japanese don't fraternize, I have to admit I did kind of assume where the story was heading. Boy, was I wrong! Boy, did my jaw drop! I did not see that coming.

The War Outside is a very interesting coming of age novel. It is part romance, part mystery, and historical fiction at its best. Monica Hesse has really done her research resulting in a clear picture of what life was like in Crystal City. Crystal City was not quite the same as the other internment camps in that it was a place for people of Japanese, German, and Italian ancestry who were considered to be "enemy aliens" or spies. It was not run by War Relocation Authority, but by the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) division of the Department of Justice and yes, forced repatriations were carried out from there. I suspect that on several levels this novel will resonate for today's readers.

Do read the author's A Note on Historical Accuracy to discover how she researched this novel as well as what events really happened in Crystal City and how they were seamlessly incorporated into The War Outside. It is s fascinating as the novel.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was an EARC received from Edelweiss+
Profile Image for daisy.
150 reviews15 followers
May 16, 2022
"When my mother tells the story, what she leaves out is my whole life."

4 stars

Wow - this was so powerful and heartbreaking.
Haruko and Margot are both interesting characters, and the growth of their relationship feels truly genuine. This story - theirs, and so many others - is one I know that I will remember.

The reason this isn't a 5 five read is because it felt a little underdeveloped. As much as I can appreciate that Hesse narrated this history, through these characters - in the form of a story, the resolution seems unsatisfying, and the lack of closure is agitating. (The ending seems fitting enough, but I think it could've been executed better.)

But I really enjoyed Hesse's writing; I definitely want to check out her other books. :)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 593 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.