Hope and affection bloom between a schoolgirl and a pilot in this bittersweet narrative set in Japan during the final months of World War II.
Fifteen-year-old Hana is a member of a youth war group that tends to the tokkō, or special attack pilots, stationed at the Chiran Army Air Force Base. The girls do the pilots’ laundry, serve them meals, and line the runway to send them off on their deadly flights. Since nearly being buried alive during an air raid, Hana moves through each day as though already claimed by death—until one afternoon when she hears the sound of a violin for the first time. Seventeen-year-old Taro is a tokkō committed to defending his country at the cost of his own life, but he cannot abandon his love of music and takes comfort in practicing his instrument. Despite the traumas of war and the demands of duty, a chance encounter between the two leads to a connection that tethers them to each other. Smith’s (Pasadena, 2016, etc.) thorough research is evident in the details that immerse readers in Hana’s and Taro’s lives. Their stories unfold at a measured pace; short chapters build readers’ anticipation and keep the pages turning. Romanized Japanese words are used throughout the text, grounding the novel in its setting.
A pensive depiction of young love and endurance amid wartime uncertainty. (map, author’s note, glossary, selected bibliography) (Historical fiction. 13-18)