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BEACON HILL BOYS by Ken Mochizuki


by Ken Mochizuki

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-439-26749-8
Publisher: Scholastic

Dan Inagaki is tired of being labeled “Oriental” and equally tired of the pressure from his parents to be the perfect Japanese-American son. Dan’s pals Eddie, Frank, and Jerry all have their own takes on coping with the prejudices and stereotypes within and outside their community in 1970s Seattle. The mixture of races at Beacon Hill High is all in that slow move to political consciousness that epitomized the decade, but Dan feels he and his friends are barely waking up. With the example of “black power” he tries to take some actions for change. Mochizuki (Passage to Freedom, not reviewed, etc.) makes the time period vivid with mentions of the music, drugs, hair styles, clothing, and, of course, the Vietnam War. Successful at portraying the boy’s impatience with their labels, Dan is less successfully shown as beginning his revolt against the assumptions of those around him. Throughout, he longs for the attention of Janet, whose beauty and style make her beyond reach, especially given his inarticulate longings. Despite her hints of being interested and the flirtatiousness of others, sex barely exists in the story. The flavor is highly autobiographical, and indeed, Mochizuki grew up in Seattle during this time period, and has commented on his own struggle with prejudice. Perhaps it is the veil of fiction that makes this episodic narrative seem distant from the character’s inner turmoil. On the other hand, it is perhaps Mochizuki’s closeness to the people and events that makes it seem more of a recitation of painful memories that even time and distance haven’t softened. Beginning and ending with a family dinner at a Japanese restaurant, the story offers little closure for the characters beyond Dan’s own reflections of hope for change. Lifelike and true to that most befuddling of times. (Fiction. YA)