Friday, February 7, 2014

ARC Review: Stay Where You Are & Then Leave - John Boyne

Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on March 25, 2014
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 247
Read From: 1.25.14 - 1.26.14

The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield's father promised he wouldn't go away to fight - but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn't know where his father might be, other than that he's away on a special, secret mission. 
Then, while shining shoes at King's Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father's name - on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realizes his father is in a hospital close by - a hospital treating soldiers with an unusual condition. Alfie is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place. . . .


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? It isn't my favorite cover art, but I don't dislike it, either. The plane catches my attention because it's clearly a WWI-era plane, but that's pretty much it. The title is vague and the clouds are dull.

Characters: This is one of those books where it is hard to pinpoint exact reasons why one likes a character. While they all are quite memorable, the Reader also doesn't really spend all that much time around them. They populate the story, but we don't learn a lot about them. Alfie, of course, we spend a lot of time with, and it was very interesting to see World War One through his eyes. He's a smart boy and I greatly admired his personal sacrifices to help his mum financially. I also understood the feeling of people keeping things from him because he was too young; I hated it as a kid and learned early on how to be quiet so adults would eventually forget that I was in the room.

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: Alfie's fifth birthday also heralds the beginning of World War One. Though his father promised he wouldn't join the army, he does - like so many others, convinced that it will all be over by Christmas. But of course it isn't, and the years drag on. Alfie's father writes often, but then his letters stop. Aflie's mum claims it's because his father is on a secret mission for the government, but Alfie knows it's because his dad is dead. Or so he thinks, until one day he's shining shoes at the train station and learns that his father is in hospital. But it isn't the regular sort of hospital, and Alfie knows that the only way for his dad to get better is if he comes home. This is a story not only about a young boy trying to bring his father home - that actually doesn't happen until the end. It's mostly about how WWI affected families and neighbors in England. Neighbors turn against a Jewish family they've known for years simply because they are from a country somewhat close to Germany; Alfie's father's best friend is shunned and hated because he refused to go a war and kill people. And since it's told from Alfie's point of view, events are not spelled out in plain English, though the Reader knows plenty well what is going on. Somehow, the skirting around the edges viewpoint makes it that much dramatic and poignant. There really isn't much of a plot, but the narration style keeps this relatively short story moving right along, as the horrors of WWI are presented to Readers in a fresh new way.

Believability: No complaints there.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Though third person, the narration is clearly from Alfie's point of view; a child's perspective. John Boyne is extremely good at doing this, and seeing WWI through the eyes of a kid put a whole new look on it. The style was simple yet very effective.

Content: None, other than the usual wartime imagery.

Conclusion: When Alfie finds his father in the hospital, he mounts a plan to "rescue" him. It's a disaster waiting to happen - the Reader is sure of it. Alfie's father is suffering from shellshock; sudden noises, too many people - many things can set the nightmarish memories off. So when Alfie embarks to break his father out of the hospital, we cringe. The end itself it very bittersweet. It's far happier than the ending of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but the Reader knows that in a few years, WWII will be starting, and Alfie will be just the right age to be recruited. Stay Where You Are & Then Leave was a very fast, very interesting, and very emotional read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, fourteen-and-up. Though Alfie is a young protagonist, the imagery of wounded soldiers - both physically and mentally - is a bit hard to read about. Fans of John Boyne and WWI novels will lap this up.

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