Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

We Are Not Free

Rate this book
“All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us.

We are not free.
But we are not alone.” 

We Are Not Free, is the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.

Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco.
Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted.
Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps.
In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Traci Chee

12 books1,300 followers
Traci Chee is a New York Times best-selling author and National Book Award Finalist. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at bonsai gardening, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast 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
4,356 (50%)
4 stars
3,102 (36%)
3 stars
977 (11%)
2 stars
139 (1%)
1 star
38 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,730 reviews
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
611 reviews87.5k followers
January 22, 2021
This book was fantastic. There are a lot of characters but each one felt real and I was able to connect to them even in the short time we had together. This was by no means an easy read, but the author did a fantastic job of writing the story in a way that makes it compulsively readable. I couldn’t put it down. I felt for these characters, there was so much emotion packed in here and so much heart. Definitely a must read.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.4k followers
June 4, 2021
seems like we as a society should probably talk more about the fact that we imprisoned everyone of a certain race not even a century ago.

this book might be a good place to start.

i have a hard time enjoying books like this, where there are about 92 main characters, because i can only generously like 1 character per book (and that's on a good day) plus i get confused, but...

i see the purpose of doing that here. because jesus christ we took away the innocence of thousands of children and the livelihoods of thousands of adults and somehow both for thousands of adolescents. so how could you spend a book just telling one story like that, when there are so many?

bottom line: important reading. i wish i had this at 15.



taking lily's idea and reading only books by asian authors this month!

book 1: the incendiaries
book 2: last night at the telegraph club
book 3: dear girls
book 4: sigh, gone
book 5: frankly in love
book 6: emergency contact
book 7: your house will pay
book 8: convenience store woman
book 9: on earth we're briefly gorgeous
book 10: we are not free
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,072 followers
May 26, 2020
wow, what a completely stunning and heartbreaking novel about a history we don’t learn enough about. i absolutely adored every page of this and every character. i felt so completely immersed in this group of friends, and my heart cheered and broke for them. truly, this is a novel that feels like an instant classic of the YA category, and i would love to see it taught in schools one day. it comes out this september, and i highly recommend picking it up!

read via an advance copy from hmh
August 15, 2020

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

I was very excited when I learned about WE ARE NOT FREE, not just because of that amazing cover, but because it's written from the perspective of Japanese-Americans during WWII. In WE ARE NOT FREE, we, the readers, are introduced to the atmosphere of racism many Asian Americans (not just Japanese-Americans) faced due to anti-Japanese sentiments, life in the internment camps, and how it feels to be fighting a war for a country you thought you loved that has done everything to show it doesn't love you back.

The result is simply heartbreaking.

I've had a bit of prior reading about internment camps thanks to Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's writings (FAREWELL TO MANZANAR and THE LEGEND OF FIRE HORSE WOMAN), as well as George Takei's memoirs, where he talked about his own experience in one camp as a child and young man. Chee really captures the surreal and horrific element of these camps, where the prisoners feared for their safety, knowing that they could have their property confiscated or even be shot, but also had in their daily lives theatrical pageants of normality in the form of sock hops and sports games.

I also liked how Chee wrote about war in this book. She doesn't pull back any punches. Something happens towards the end that is truly devastating, and the pain in this book feels authentic and real. I think WE ARE FREE would actually be a great companion to FAREWELL TO MANZANAR, and teachers should consider using it in their curriculums as required reading because it's a lot more accessible than some of Houston's work, and was written specifically for young adults in mind.

I'm giving this a three (more like a three-point-five) rating because WE ARE NOT FREE felt much longer than it needed to be. Fourteen POVs is a lot, and I almost wish the author had just stuck with a few characters for the reader to focus on so we could get to know them better. I felt like every time I was just about to understand what made them tick, there was a POV switch. And while sometimes characters would be seen again through each cycled POV, it felt way less intimate. Some of the POVs also weren't as engaging as others. I think my favorites were Aiko, Minnow, and Twitchy.

I definitely recommend this to anyone who feels fatigued by WWII fiction and thinks they would enjoy a book written from a fresh perspective. WE ARE NOT FREE deftly tackles some really tough subjects, and shows a side of history that I'm sure many people in the U.S. would like to-- but should never-- forget.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 

3 stars
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,077 reviews13.3k followers
March 20, 2021
Such a powerful, raw, and heartbreaking book. Try not to read this in public because I was listening to this audiobook in the car and started crying uncontrollably near the end. So heartbreaking. This book starts when Japanese Americans are forced into incarcerations camps and their whole lives are upended. The story is told in different perspectives of the teenagers who live in the camp and their journeys over the years. I absolutely loved the audiobook and how we had different narrators for each perspective. The story flew by as we got each perspective and saw the all of the characters throughout each chapter.

Please know, though, that this book does include a chapter of a character who is actually fighting in the war, which was especially jarring to me. I almost had to DNF the book because it's really hard for me to see or watch war/battle stories of our actual history when I'm not in the right headspace for that, but I kept on listening because I was so close to the end. That chapter and beyond really hit home for me and how utterly unfair, frustrating, and infuriating this time in history was. Make sure you're prepared for the emotions that come with this story, but I think it is an incredibly important story to have for everyone to read.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,294 reviews2,962 followers
August 21, 2020
I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s and World War 2 was covered extensively in history class every year. And yet, I don't remember any of my teachers talking about the US internment/incarceration camps. Pretty sad that most people of my generation can say it wasn't part of their school's curriculum either. I'm thankful this historical fiction book is available for today's generation of young readers. And it certainly is a worthwhile read for an adult as well.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, FDR ordered the forced relocation and incarceration of over 100,000 people of Japanese descent. This book follows a group of Japanese American teens along with their families who are forced out of their homes in San Francisco and sent to the incarceration camps. Their new living accommodations were horse stalls. Each chapter features the perspective of a different character.

Despite the fact there are quite a few characters in this book, for the most part you can keep track of everyone. It helps that they are all basically connected in some way or another and each one pops up frequently throughout the story, even when it isn't their featured chapter. You might have to occasionally think for a second or two in order to remember a character but it is manageable especially when compared to other books with a large cast that I have read recently.

This is a well thought out book by the author and she does a good job incorporating the history with characters who feel authentic and real. Your heart will break along with them. And there are many opportunities to feel angry and wonder why all this happened in the first place.

For those readers who know little about this part of American history, I highly encourage you to read this book. And even if you have some prior knowledge, I think the book is well worth your time as well.

I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kat Cho.
Author 7 books1,796 followers
December 14, 2021
Truly a beautiful book! I am so emotional right now and I'm definitely going to have to re-read it because there was so much to take in. It really reminds me of the vibe the Outsiders had in how it represents a close-knit friend group (that's more like family).

A powerful and heartbreaking look into history. We Are Not Free compels us to face the reality that when fear guides us, our humanity suffers.

My official blurb:

A powerful and heartbreaking look into history. In a time when it's integral to remember the failings of our past so that we can ensure we preserve our humanity in the present, Chee brings us a relevant and poignant tale of a group of Japanese-American teens who were forced to feel unwelcome in a country they've always called home. We Are Not Free compels us to face the reality that when fear guides us, our humanity suffers. It's such a testament to Chee's storytelling that she's able to show us the horrors that happened to these Japanese-American teens and still include a thread of hope throughout. I dare you to try to read this book with dry eyes. A must-read book.
Profile Image for cherelle.
180 reviews156 followers
July 11, 2021
i weep. this book is pure emotion, pure pain, pure soul i swear. 😭

a ww2 historical fiction centering on the lives of a group of japanese-american teens, through a staggering but brilliantly executed 14 povs, it poignantly touches on the discrimination during the war back then, as well as the indomitable pride despite the identity struggle of these teenagers.

outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us. but in here, we are together. we are not free. but we are not alone.

i haven’t ugly-cried in so long, and we are not free completely ripped. my. cold. dead. desensitised. heart. out. ugh feelings. oh how you make me feel. 🥺


FULL REVIEW of We Are Not Free on my blog

Blog | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 16, 2021
Printz Honor 2021

Very educational, for those who want to learn about internment camps and persecution of Japanese American citizens during WWII. But lacking in vibrant characters. 10+ POVs, almost indistinguishable from one another. Didactic. Important, but not a compelling work in itself.

I'd recommend They Called Us Enemy instead.
Profile Image for Alex (The Scribe Owl).
349 reviews109 followers
September 8, 2020
6/5 stars because why the heck not, it deserves it.

Thanks to Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

This was by far the best standalone, maybe even the best book I’ve read all year. I laughed, I cried, and I cried some more. This was perfect, from the storytelling to the writing and I’m going to have my work cut out for me getting it all into a review, but I’m sure going to try.

Fourteen Japanese-American teenagers grew up together in Japantown, San Francisco. But when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, everything flips upside down. The Japanese aren’t trusted, even the second-generation ones like them who have never been to Japan. And then Japantown is emptied with all its occupants being thrown into incarceration camps. Together or forced apart, hated or accepted, the Japanese-Americans rally together to show the world exactly what they’re made of.

First of all, I just loved the characters and the way we got to meet them over time. Each of the sixteen chapters followed a different kid and all their different trials, and each time I felt like I was reading a new story with the same cast. A new perspective with the same loyal friends that were always by their side, no matter the distance between them.

The writing was perfect. There are no other words for it. With each perspective it was as if you could hear the character speaking within the word choice and the sentence structure. The description everything through each person’s eyes were so different, yet the same. The evocative way it was written made me feel like I was there, laughing with them, throwing snowballs at them, crying and mourning by their sides. In short, the writing was the kind that makes you feel something, and it’s perfect.

All in all, this was just an amazing book. I would recommend it to anyone and suggest a box of tissues. This was just perfect and if you’ll excuse me, I need to go cry now.

Content and trigger warnings: Domestic violence, death, loss of a loved one, racism, and war themes.
Profile Image for Sara (sarawithoutanH).
481 reviews2,996 followers
January 27, 2021
I think the topic of this book is incredibly important and I really appreciate the author’s depth of research, as well as her willingness to share anecdotes from her own family’s experiences during this horrific historical event. I think this is a great book to pick up if you’re interested in learning more about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

I think what lost me in this book is that it follows 14 different narrators. While this isn’t technically an anthology since the characters’ stories overlap, it sort of feels like one. This made it hard for me to connect with the narrative. There were only a few characters’ chapters that I really cared about (shout out to Betty, Twitchy, Frankie, Stan, and Mas). I’m glad this book exists but I struggled to stay engaged the whole time. I’d probably rate it around 2.5-3 stars, rounding up due to the important topic. The chapters I did connect with were very gripping, but overall I just don't think I enjoy books with this many characters to follow.

Booktube | Instagram | Twitter
Profile Image for Paula M.
547 reviews641 followers
September 2, 2020
"It’s been over three months since the attack on Pearl Harbor, and my oldest brother, Mas, has told me to come straight home from school each day."

This novel is a historical fiction that starts three months since the attack on pearl harbor. Readers will be taken through a heartbreaking and yet beautiful journey of the 14 Japanese American who were ripped from their neighborhood in San Francisco and were forced to live off in incarceration camps during WWII.

We Are Not Free is one of the best books I've read this year, maybe in my whole life! After being engrossed by Kiku Hughes graphic novel, Displacement, which was also a story about the Japanese American internment, I was easily sucked in by Traci Chee's stunning and powerful writing. We Are Not Free is written in 14, yes you read that right, 14 different POV's with characters of different age groups. It sounds intimidating but it surprisingly worked so well for me. In fact, it was one of the many reasons why I couldn't stop reading the book. The way Traci Chee wrote each chapter was incredible as you can really feel the individuality and difference of each characters. You can also notice how detailed and yet poetic the writing was. Each chapter, each POV really brought an emotion out of me. It's amazing how readable and impacting this book is.

As I've mentioned above, the story started few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and we saw how ordinary the lives of young teens were. I really liked how the timeline was done in this story and that even though the book has 14 POV's, it was written chronologically. This way, the book made it easy for us to follow their stories. I really wouldn't want to elaborate the whole plot even more here in my review as I wanted for you to experience it yourself. It's devastating and absolutely riveting, I had to put the book down at some point just so I can process what was happening in the novel. The injustice, how they were mistreated and the racial fear they had to go through. Probably one of the saddest part of reading this novel is realizing that what they went through is still happening in the present time, just in different ways.

I don't think I'll forget this book anytime soon. It will always be at the tip of my tongue when someone will ask for a book recommendation. It is a necessary and incredible book. By reading this book, you may feel the pain, racism, and fear but this will also bring you joy, laughter, and will make you realize the power of friendship. Truly, a masterpiece!

Profile Image for ✨Rashi✨.
89 reviews14 followers
July 28, 2021
EDIT- The author has a youtube channel too guys! go check it out!
This is the third and final book I binge read to celebrate the end of my exams (till the next ones come within a month) and words fall short to explain how much this book moved me. I am glad I picked up this book.

The author also has a youtube channel with reasearch storied related to this book on it so check it out!

The book revolves around 14 japanese-amarican teens living in Japantown ,Sans Francisco during the second world war whose lives change after the pearl harbor attack. Suddenly, they are alienated from their very own country. Their freedom is taken away and they are sent to internment camps.

The story is tough to read at times and heartbreaking yet this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Although there are 14 teens, the story is quite easy to follow. Each character was quite developed and the writing style is easy to follow as well as impactful ( especially the last few chapters)

The reason this book struck me was that I never knew much about internment camps for Japanese-Americans. It is truly frightening how such issues were the reality for many yet never make it to the curriculum.
Profile Image for hiba.
240 reviews329 followers
June 18, 2021
a stark, fiercely written story based on the mass incarcerations of japanese-american citizens during world war ii. i'm crushed and hurt and grateful i got to read this incredible book - achingly raw, gutting, necessary. also, the way traci chee managed to write the povs of fourteen people and give each of them a distinct voice is so impressive. highly recommend.

cws: racism, anti-japanese/east asian slurs, hate crimes, physical assault, war, death

rep: japanese-american cast, mlm pov character

Profile Image for Taury.
502 reviews88 followers
June 22, 2022
It is a YA book. Some are good. Some are not for me.
Profile Image for chloe ♡.
394 reviews264 followers
September 5, 2020
i received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. all opinions below are my own.

world war ii is an important part of every history curriculum – we are all taught about the allied powers and the axis powers, the bombings, the gunshots, and sometimes, about the suffering as well. how many people, however, have heard of the japanese american internment camps, and knew the stories of the people who lived there?

in the centre there’s a drawing of a japanese soldier with diagonal slits for eyes, nostrils like watermelon seeds, and two big square teeth jutting out over his lower lip. i’m not a great artist or anything, but i’m a better artist than that. when i draw the people in my neighborhood, i draw them with eyes like crescent moons and kindness and red bean cakes split down the center, i draw them with real noses and regular-size teeth.

in this powerful, heartbreaking novel, traci chee writes about fourteen japanese american teenagers who, after the bombing of pearl harbor, are forced to move into internment camps. i always find multiple povs really overwhelming, but traci chee did a really good job at developing the characters so that they all have distinct personalities and voices, and it was not difficult at all to keep up with them. it was incredible reading from all their perspectives and see the story progress from so many different points of view.

outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us. but in here, we are together. we are not free. but we are not alone.

the characters' friendship reminds me of a quote i once saw on pinterest - "best friends are always together, never apart. maybe in distance, but never at heart." far from their homes in california, they stick together, clinging close to their hopes, fears, ambitions and love for each other. through ups and downs, despite having differing political views (those who pledge "yes-yes" and those who answer "no-no" on their loyalty questionnaire), and with some going away to battle and moving away, the characters still think of each other and write to each other constantly. it's clear that their friendship means a lot to them all, which i found really heartwarming.

we are not free is an emotional tale based on the author's own family history and that of many other japanese american families, recollections of a little-known but important piece of history, and a masterpiece of a book which should be on everyone’s bookshelves. if you decide to pick it up (which you should, by the way), have tissues ready and be prepared to shed lots of tears.
Profile Image for Kasia.
196 reviews17 followers
August 15, 2021
I've learned about Executive Order 9066 (pretty much an order to incarcerate people of Japanese ancestry) couple years ago when I was reading the book about Dorothea Lange. She visited one of the detention centers and made some very emotional photos of that place. I still remember my shock and disbelief. So when this book showed up on my radar I knew I will have to check it out.

We are not free tells the story of the forced relocation from the perspective of a group of teenagers. Every chapter is told by a different person from the group with one chapter being written in a verse. I cannot emphasize enough how important this story is and yet I found this book to be a bit emotionless. There is more than 10 different perspectives here and when you add all the siblings and parents there is probably like 30 people appearing in this story. It was hard for me to remember who is who, which people are related and which are in love. I understand that it was done to show how broad the experience of staying in the camp was but I just couldn't care for the characters that were showing up for 20 pages and then they were rarely mentioned here and there just to add to my confusion. You can feel the potential of the each individual story but mixed together the voices were not as clear and not as touching as they could be. In the end it is an important and solid book but also a bit forgettable.
Profile Image for Danika at The Lesbrary.
522 reviews1,286 followers
August 13, 2020
This is a book about Japanese-American incarceration camps, told in 14 (!) different teen perspectives, from 1942-1945. 14 different perspectives sounds overwhelming, but they're all in the same loose group of friends (and siblings) who were living in Japantown in San Francisco before their forced removal. It's also told completely chronologically, so each perspective hands off to the next, which makes it easy to follow (even if I did keep track of some characters better than others). This group is a kind of found family, made up of boys and girls, different ages, and very different perspectives. There's the scrappy kid sister who wants to tag along to everything, the shy younger brother who sits in a corner and draws, the model citizen older brother trying to keep everyone in line--and always-looking-for-a-fight Frankie, optimistic and lofty Bette, and more. Each chapter has its own arc, while the story as a whole is more of an exploration of Japanese-American incarceration camps.

Note: I'm going to discuss some of the broad events of the book, which is history, and not a spoiler. I'm not spoiling any of the particular plot points or anything that happens to a particular character.

This book made me realize how little I know about this period of history. I read A Child in Prison Camp by Shizuye Takashima as a kid, which is about Japanese-Canadian incarceration camps--and yes, it happened in Canada, too, and Japanese-Canadians weren’t all free to be on the BC coast until 1949, which is years after the US stopped! That book left a big impression on me as a kid, but I didn't follow it up as an adult. We are Not Free really shows how recent this was, and what a huge impact it had. Chee weaves in details from her own family's history, and she explains in the afterword how personal this story is.

One of the strengths of this book is the chilling details: "storm-colored flowers rising from the rooftops, dispersing ash like seeds on the wind" as people in Japantown burn anything that might make them appear to be "loyal" to Japan, including family heirlooms. A group of Chinese-Americans wearing "I am Chinese" pins so they would stop getting targeted for harassment. A uniformed First World War veteran being arrested. Japanese-Americans having to sell everything they couldn't fit into a suitcase or two, with bargain hunters crowing about buying an entire life's work for almost nothing, including whole businesses, equipment and all. The humiliation and trauma of that alone.

I realized that I was more familiar with the temporary detention centers converted from horse stalls, where they lived for weeks. I didn't grasp the huge time span of living in the incarceration camps (where they were then sent) for years. The feeling is surreal: they go to school and even have school dances, all while surrounded by barbed wire fences and guards. In some moments, it almost seems normal--but it never is. It's an imitation of a home, with shoddy infrastructure, no running water, food shortages, and humiliation and harassment (and possible murder) by guards.

Each narrator deals with this their own way. They are all teenagers, or barely out of their teens, and we see them rebelling against their parents, experimenting with their identities, and having teen romances. But they also are struggling with how to survive and retain their humanity while imprisoned. There are no good answers, only choices. Shig struggles with the concept of "gaman." Mas tries to be perfect, making him brittle. Amy wants to rebel from who she was before. Bette imagines herself as a (white) celebrity. Frankie wants to fist-fight the world and tear everything down. Kiyoshi, already traumatized, is frozen in fear.

One choice they all have to make is their answer to the "loyalty questionnaire," which forces Japanese-Americans in incarceration camps to answer yes or no to renouncing their loyalty to the emperor (which assumes they have that allegiance), pledge allegiance to the U.S., and agree to serve if conscripted. Their community is divided into Yes-Yeses and No-Nos: some still loyal to the U.S., some loyal to Japan, and most caught between--angry at their treatment and not wanting to fight in U.S. wars, but also wanting to stay. The older boys also have to decide whether to volunteer to go into battle for a country who has wrongfully imprisoned them and "prove" their loyalty, also hoping to end the war keeping their families and communities imprisoned.

Even after they are "free," they have to deal with a country just as--if not more--racist towards them than before they were imprisoned, and fighting to start over. Their communities and even families are scattered--some able to leave the camps earlier by pledging their allegiance to the U.S., some fighting overseas, some in high-security camps, some repatriated.

As much as this is historical fiction, Chee points out in the afterword that much of it is still relevant today. Not just in the legacy of these incarceration camps, but in similar policies being enacted right now. (Like the detention camps at the U.S. border.) I was also struck by the white apathy and fragility we see. (There are also moments in the book where we see how Black soldiers are treated, and the ongoing segregation in the "free" U.S.) Guards exercise power and violence with impunity, terrorizing innocent people or protesters in the camps--another image that felt eerily familiar.

This was an educational and chilling read, skillfully told. I highly, highly recommend it, and it belongs in every high school library.
Profile Image for maryamongstories.
105 reviews535 followers
March 6, 2022
A heartbreaking, incredibly important book to read. The author managed to create a very bittersweet atmosphere through this story, with the cutest characters trying to fight for what's best, when they're not even sure what that even means.
Sometimes I wish we'd had less points of view to read from, so we got to spend more time in each section, but I loved everything else!
We had a liveshow for the Tea Leaves book club about this book, if you're interested in hearing more of our thoughts 🥰 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtrRy...
Profile Image for Nev.
1,056 reviews137 followers
February 2, 2021
Damn. This book really punched me in the heart. It tells the story of the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II through fourteen different teenage and young adult characters. I was really interested in reading this because, at least when I was in school, this topic was never focused on enough and we didn’t truly get into what a horrific part of our country’s history this was.

Traci Chee is an amazing writer. To have fourteen different POV characters and have them all have unique voices and perspectives is a feat. I was initially concerned that I wouldn’t be able to keep all of the characters straight, but after the first two chapters I was hooked and that wasn’t an issue. It was so heartbreaking to see the ways that the characters are treated and the different ways they try to cope with what's happening. I loved all of the different dynamics between everyone. There were amazing friendships, relationships, and familial bonds.

I definitely recommend checking it out, even if you’re normally not a historical fiction reader. Also, I’d love to see this adapted into a miniseries.
Profile Image for bella.
92 reviews35 followers
October 14, 2021
i’m utterly broken. i went in fully expecting this book to hit close to home, but it affected me even more than i anticipated. i’m truly blown away by how raw and resonant it is. just wow. breathtaking and devastating and heartwarming and everything in between. very much still processing. longer review to come hopefully if/when i can properly express everything i’m feeling about this book. please read it.
Profile Image for Emily.
Author 1 book587 followers
July 2, 2020
This might now be my favorite book of the year. I'm going to have to read everything written by Traci Chee.

This YA novel is about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The story is told through multiple perspectives, a group of teenagers who lived in the same neighborhood in San Francisco. I appreciate that they each have individual voices - I never lost track of who's perspective I was reading. Just the fact that there were so many - 14 different character perspectives - that is worthy of high praise. But not just that, each character was written with so much emotion and personality. They each had a unique perspective to bring to the story.

I felt so immersed in their stories, I laughed, I cried, I raged with them at the injustices they suffered. This book was phenomenal and important reading and I can't recommend it enough.

Thank you to netgalley for the free e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Alex Nonymous.
Author 21 books375 followers
September 21, 2020
Full disclosure, I received a chapter sampler for this a while back from the publisher.

With books like this, it's hard to separate the actual literary value from the importance of the subject matter. I haven't read much about Japanese internment camps and seeing the topic explored in YA felt really important. Thematically wise, I'm glad this book exists. But considering We Are Not Free threw me into a 3-day reading slump, I can't honestly give it a high rating.

This book is ambitious. We have (I think) 15 separate narrators telling the story which I think was what made this such a difficult, slow read for me. None of the characters sound distinct and it caused me to constantly have to look back and check who's perspective I was in. Everything felt hollow and detached and while some of my favorite historical fics take on that same detached feel, it never felt intentional here and it made it really really hard to connect to any aspect of the narrative.
Profile Image for mads.
357 reviews348 followers
May 21, 2022
”We are not free. But we are not alone.”

TW: death, death of a loved one, grief, racial slurs, racism, violence, xenophobia.

This was a well-written, informative and heartbreaking book with hope at its center - despite all of the atrocities and loss. It was immensely readable and yet difficult to read at once, because of the subject matter.

And it should be difficult to read. Because this is horrible.

I hate to admit that this was a part of history I knew very little about. This book has encouraged me to do more research into what took place in our country during this time period.

As for the story itself, the characters were all written with distinct clear voices and most of them were easy to get attached to. Because there are so many perspectives, I did get some of the characters confused but I figured it out lol.

All in all, I can see why this has gotten the attention it has. It’s wholly deserved.
Profile Image for Izzie.
585 reviews111 followers
August 23, 2020
Thank you to HMH Books for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This book follows a tight knit group of teens living in Japantown in San Fransisco during WW II.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Japanese American citizens are no longer trusted and the teens find themselves and their families uprooted and forced to live in incarceration camps. The story follows the lives of the teens as they struggle to come to terms with life in the camps and Americas "new" perception of them.
What I Liked:
Characters. Although it is slightly hard to keep up with the many different characters in this story, I think it was genius of the author to show so many perspectives. It allowed us to see a diverse range of journeys covering a broad range of viewpoints, thoughts, and feelings. Not only did we see the opinions of the teenagers, it also showed the reactions of their families and how widely reactions differed. I really loved seeing the friendships develop between the different teenagers. Their love and support for one another was clearly a source of strength which gave them the resilience needed to endure life in the camps. I felt extremely emotionally connected with the characters and their relationships and I felt as though I was on a rollercoaster of emotion alongside them.
Themes/ History. There are a lot of stories from WWII and there are so many perspectives that we hear little about, the story of the Japanese Americans among them. While I knew that they were put into camps, I knew nothing about the conditions and hatred they endured. It was fascinating to learn about the different aspects of life in the camps, from the loyalty tests to the unjust violence and punishments that took place. Friendship was the strongest theme running through the book and it was expertly woven with a range of different dynamics which really created an authentic portrayal of the characters love for each other.
Writing. I was immediately engaged and drawn into the book as a result of the easy, yet emotive style of writing. Each character had a strong, individual voice and Traci Chee was able to switch between styles depending on the perspective. She also used different formats, such as letters, diaries etc to add more layers and showcase different personalities.
Overall, this was an engaging, emotional and educational read that pulled on my heart strings. I think it was a hard hitting story which really captured a snapshot of the period and setting while also being an unputdownable read. I would really recommend it to anyone.
Profile Image for Renata.
428 reviews279 followers
July 25, 2021
This type of books are very important and I think you can include them to a younger audience and it won't be too forced and easy to understand and get the history. The story was so heartbreaking, literally you see how so many people lives are taken away and they have that conflict of understanding if they're americans, why they're not free?

My problem though was having that many points of view, I get the main point of why the author did it but I do think it could have reached more with only one character and adding the secondary characters. But either way, a really nice book that I wished I had when I was younger.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,730 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.