Title: Things We Didn’t Say
Author: Amy Lynn Green
Major Themes: Prisoners of War, Japanese Americans, World War II
Synopsis: When she is coerced into working as a translator in a German POW camp in her hometown in Minnesota, Johanna finds herself the subject of hostility and eventually is accused of treason.
When I read the description of Things We Didn’t Say, I knew I wanted to read this debut novel. I haven’t seen any books before about the camps of German POWs. I was amazed at how well this author pulled together those camps, the Japanese who were interned in camps, and the attitudes of American citizens. It is written in epistolary style, with the story told entirely through letters and newspaper accounts.
Johanna was perfectly happy studying languages and literature at the University of Minnesota. Then, she received an unexpected letter: A POW camp is being set up at her hometown of Ironside Lake, Minnesota. They need a translator to help with communication with the German prisoners and to censor their letters. No way is she going to quit her beloved studies and have to interact with people, especially in her hometown! Then, she is informed that the anonymous person who is financing her scholarship has added a new requirement, which effectively forces Johanna into taking the job of translator.
As the summer wears on, Johanna keeps pouring out her frustrations to her friend Peter, a Japanese language teacher whose family, as Japanese Americans, are interned in a camp. Johanna works hard to try to get her fellow townspeople to see the German POWs as fellow humans, but she gains more and more enemies. Eventually, she finds herself accused of treason! What can she do?
I really enjoyed Things We Didn’t Say. It is quite well-done. The letters are an effective way to naturally tell a story. It was quite interesting to see how public opinion changed, and was influenced by the local newspaper. I liked the glimpses of life in the Japanese camps, too. I also liked that this book wasn’t focused on romance! There was a gentle romance, but it was not a main thrust of the book.
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: Golly appears twice in the book, and heck once.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults