Paranoia and racial tension ripple through coastal Oregon’s Sea Park during the onset of World War II.
Don’t call 12-year-old RubyOpalPearl anything but Jewels. She’ll ignore you, if you do. Her book-smart brother, Rex, has been crowned Town Hood. Together with their mom, “Malice Alice,” they see to the Stay and Play beach cabins, owned by Mr. Kaye. Mr. Kaye supports the town and is the only father figure that Jewels has ever known. In Jewels’ words, the idyllic town goes “ka-blooey” when the Japanese forces bomb Pearl Harbor. Overnight, all persons of Japanese descent are suspect, and that includes her own Mr. Kaye. When FBI agent Boothby comes to town, Jewels fears that Mr. Kaye will be taken away just because of his race and hatches a daring plan to keep Mr. Kaye incommunicado. The town’s rage against Mr. Kaye feels achingly real and darkens the mood, like the blackout cloths required on all windows. Despite her affection for him, even Jewels at times can’t help but wonder if he’s the enemy. She’s a conflicted and complex character, imbued with unending, infectious spunk. Racially charged language, suitably jarring, is consistent with the period and helps take readers to the time; Platt addresses the use of derogatory slang in her author’s note.
Readers will respond to one girl’s determination to do what’s right during a dark time. (Historical fiction. 10-14)