Thank you to Berkley Publishers for sending me a free copy of The Last Year of the War in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943—aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.
The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.
But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.
The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.
I knew going into The Last Year of the War that I was in for a treat. Last year I read another of Meissner’s books, As Bright As Heaven, and really enjoyed it. TLYOTW did not disappoint! Meissner is a skilled story teller and seamlessly weaves fictional characters in with real historic events.
One of the reasons why I love historical fiction so much is that in each novel I read, I learn about something new even if it’s about some aspect of history I thought I already knew a lot about. In TLYOTW, I learned about life for immigrants in American during the war and how they were treated, specifically German immigrants. I also learned what life in an internment camp was like, which is something I haven’t yet read about. I am always amazed, specifically with the WWII historical fiction genre, how there continue to be new stories to be told and new viewpoints to be seen.
I rated this one four out of five stars, the main reason I didn’t give it five stars being that a lot of this story focused on the friendship of the two girls. I enjoyed their story, and I enjoyed the historical aspects of this book and all the new things I learned about, however I just wished for more historical reference. So much was put into the girls trying to find each other, yet I didn’t feel like their friendship was all that natural to begin with. With that being said, I did like this one a lot. The Last Year of the War is a very well written novel, many historical fiction fans will really enjoy it.