review: This Light Between Us

title: This Light Between Us
author: Andrew Fukuda
date: Tor Teen; 2019
main character: Alex Maki
YA historical fiction

“An optical illusion, he thought. A disk-lit reverie of dancing dust playing tricks in the windswept plains. Nothing more than a figment of his overripe, yearning, lonely imagination.

He stared at that empty space where she was and then was not.”

That empty space, it’s the light between us.

In the book’s back matter, Andrew Fukuda tells us that this work of historical fiction was inspired by two historical events. “The first. Anne Frank had an American penpal. The second: A subcamp of the Dachau concentration camp was liberated on April 29, 1945, by a segregated all-Japanese American military unit. This inspired him to write about Alex, a Japanese American teen who along with his family is taken into a prison camp, and Charlie, his Jewish French penpal who tried desperately to avoid the death camps.

Fukuda was born in New York and raised in Hong Kong. He graduated from Cornell University with a BA in History.  He was a lawyer before becoming a full-time author.

A relationship develops between Alex and Charlie through correspondence they’re able to maintain before the World War II breaks out.

While I really appreciated many of the factual details about the Shoah in France and the involvement of Japanese Americans in WWII both serving in the war and living in the prison camps, it is the honesty of people’s reactions that made this such a well told story. Fukuda uses Alex who serves in the war, and his brother, Frank who didn’t, to question what the oppressed Japanese American citizens really owed to the US.  

This Light Between us is a rich, thought provoking story and it’s one of the books on this year’s We Are Kidlit Summer Reading List.