Author: Jamie Ford
Rating: ** (2 stars out of 3 possible, "B")
Audience: High School
Here is historical fiction that is both intelligent and relational. Set in Seattle's International District, Jamie Ford's first novel is a split-narrative alternating between the WWII years and contemporary (1986) times.
Bullied at his all-white school, Henry Lee is a Chinese youth who befriends a Japanese girl just as West-Coast Japanese Americans are being forced into relocation camps. Ford combines this regional history with a classic coming-of-age story portraying themes of prejudice, duty, honor and devotion.
There are refreshing visits to contemporary times and culture, jazz music and friendship, not to mention the most colorful character of all: Mrs. Beatty the Lunch Lady!
If your high school has Snow Falling on Cedars on it's reading list, suggest Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet as an alternative. Snow is the more consummate novel (better suspense, richer characters, more dramatic plot) but includes too much sex for adolescents. Hotel covers many of the same issues and themes in a purer context.