by Carole Eglash-Kosoff
Valley Village Publishing

"My skin is yellow, but my heart beats red, white and blue."

Readers should plan to be thoroughly entertained, educated, and surprised when diving into this novel about Guff Rankin, a 1940s Nebraska teenage runaway who makes his way to California, dodging trouble and discovering his savant gifts. Rankin ends up overseas serving as a code breaker because of his pattern recognition abilities. The author expertly describes the daily covert operations of code breakers during WWII, where some coworkers didn't even know one another's real names.

Eglash-Kosoff is an extraordinary writer, partly because of her masterful descriptions. Some authors simply depict anxious characters as nervous. However, the author writes, "Silvers didn't worry that an asteroid might fall on his house but pretty much everything else was a cause for damp underarms." Good writing like this is subtly exquisite. The author's novel also contains italicized paragraphs of news to educate readers and give context regarding events outside of Guff's life. Often, these historical facts are lesser-known but nonetheless deeply interesting. For example, the author inserts, "The Japanese had already bombed Darwin in Northern Australia," an event rarely mentioned in North American textbooks.

Usually, books of intrigue tie things up near the end, easing readers into understanding as the plotline plays out. However, just when this novel is wrapping up comes a left hook finale that few will see coming. Beyond its entertainment value, the book's themes regarding human nature give food for thought. For example, the main characters seek stability, despite their tumultuous lives, or maybe because of them, just as most people do. Furthermore, Eglash-Kosoff explores humanity's ugly history of racism and bigotry. The best historical fiction is entertaining, leaves readers something to ponder, and makes one smarter. This novel checks all the boxes.

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