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Kirkus review of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, January 2014, Merit Press (Adams Media/ F+W Media)
Some serious moral choices confront a 15-year old Chamorro boy on Guam when he discovers a Japanese soldier still in hiding almost 30 years after World War II. It’s 1972, and Kiko has problems. He’s crazy about his classmate Daphne, but he can’t work up the courage to approach her. His grandfather appears to be developing serious dementia, and Kiko can’t control the old man when he’s assigned to watch him. He misses his brother, Sammy, an officer serving in Vietnam, and he doesn’t feel ready to go through with his upcoming confirmation into the Catholic Church. Worst of all, he learns from his grandfather that when Guam was occupied during the war, a Japanese soldier raped his mother. Meanwhile, Isamu Seto has been surviving in the jungle since the war, now living in a dugout tunnel near Kiko’s house. Seto feels unworthy because he did not commit suicide at the end of the war and still fears capture, having vowed never to surrender to the “Amerikans.” Both characters form new understandings when they encounter one another. Kohler alternates chapters between Kiko and Seto, writing Kiko’s dialogue, especially, in a dialect that rings true. Although written in simple language, the story gracefully weaves parallels between Kiko and Seto, giving it depth and complexity. An unusual, resonant debut. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)