About the Author
Monica Hesse is the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in the Blue Coat, American Fire, The War Outside, and They Went Left, as well as a Pulitzer Prize finalist columnist at the Washington Post. She lives outside Washington, DC with her family. Monica invites you to visit her online at monicahesse.com.
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From NOVL Nation
“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.”
—Kathleen, Read Forever More
“What stood out to me the most is how these type of camps and these types of stories are so rarely talked about. I know this is just one story in an untold number that has finally found a voice. When I reached the end of the story and got to the last chapter, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I had goose flesh at the brilliance of Hesse’s mind.”
—Sara, A Gingerly Review
“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.”
—Emmi, Emmi Rose Reads
“The War Outside is a rollercoaster of emotions. 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.”
—Terrie, Just Another Book B*tch
“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.”
—Jessica, Odd and Bookish
“Haruko and Margot’s friendship is deep, transcends cultural barriers, and does not define their relationship along platonic or romantic lines. I know that this kind of storytelling is infuriating for some, but I always enjoy it when a writer let’s a bond speak for itself without definition.”
—Kate, Snarky Yet Satisfying
“The War Outside is a worthwhile read. It reinforces lessons I already knew by heart and teaches me others that I will always keep with me.”
“I think the two point of view gave a special something to the novel because the reader was able to see what the camp was like for both girls and their families. They were able to build this terrifying and unstable world for the reader that was real and heartbreaking. This was definitely a darker read, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.”
—Alex, The Blonde Bookworm
Book Club Guide
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ON THE BLOG
LB School: How did the ideas for each of your books come to you, and why did you feel that they were stories that needed to be told?
Monica Hesse: While I was doing some research for a previous book, I came across a black and white photo of a young woman in a tiara, wearing a corsage. It had obviously been taken at a school dance; the caption said the girl was 16, and the prom queen of Federal High School in Crystal City, Texas. It also explained that Crystal City was an internment camp. This completely blew my mind. If your education was like mine, Japanese internment in World War II was skimmed over in history class—maybe something you’d talk about for a day or two. I didn’t know much about individual experiences, and I was completely drawn to this young woman in the photograph. What would it be like to be the prom queen of your internment camp? What kind of internment camp would even have such a thing?
It turned out that Crystal City also had a football team, cheerleaders, a beauty salon—and that hundreds of teenagers, Japanese-American and German-American, grew up there, trying to eke out a regular American existence against the backdrop of imprisonment. I’m always looking for stories like that: what is it like to be a normal teenager in an abnormal time, and impossible circumstances? My two main characters, Haruko and Margot, are now prisoners through no fault of their own. Their families are falling apart. Their worlds are upended. And they have to ask themselves: in a camp full of people the government says are spies, who can they trust? How do you know who the enemy is, when your country says it’s you?