Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Live in Infamy

Live in Infamy

Caroline Tung Richmond
For ages 13 and up
Scholastic Press, 2018   ISBN: 978-1338111095

Eighty years ago President Franklin Delano Roosevelt surrendered to the Axis powers. The victors carved up the United States, which ceased to exist as a country. The Germans claimed the eastern section of the country which they called the Eastern American Territories. The Japanese took the states west of the Mississippi and called their portion the Western American Territories (WAT). The Italians took the northern section that was left over.

The occupying forces made sure that the Americans understood that they were only tolerated. Their own people, who were brought over from the respective homelands, were given the best of everything and the Americans had to be content with getting what was left. Their lives were contained and constrained, and they were subjected to cruel laws that broke their spirits. However, there were some who refused to accept the occupation and they fought back.  In the east the members of the rebel Alliance group have been, and are still, fighting back. In fact they have caused their German overlords a great deal of trouble of late.

In the west there is the Resistance. Their successes have been fewer and they have lost many of their members. One of these people was Ren’s mother, who was put to death five years ago when he was only eleven. Ren, and everyone else in the WAT, was forced to watch her execution. After her death Ren’s father refused to be active in the Resistance any longer. He did his work as a tailor, kept his head down, and always cautioned his son to do the same.

What Ren’s father does not know is that Ren could not stand by and do nothing. For some time now he has been writing essays, attacking the Imperial policies in the WAT and calling on citizens to rise up and fight back against their oppressors. Though he does not print many of his writings, they get copied and circulated throughout the territory and he is famous. So much so in fact that the Japanese have a 550 million Yen bounty on his head. Of course they do not know that a sixteen year old boy is the writer of the essays. All they know is that someone called the Viper is responsible for the essays and that this person is a thorn in their side that they want to remove. Permanently.

Ren has no plans to get involved with the Resistance, but purely by chance this is what happens. His father is given a temporary job at Fort Tomogashima to work as a tailor. The Japanese are hosting a ball for their Nazi allies and they want everyone wearing perfectly tailored clothing. When Mr. Cabot gets injured, Ren’s cousin Marty asks Ren to take his father’s place. Marty is with the Resistance and they need someone to get into the fort to pull off a mission.

The plan is that Ren and the Resistance people who are already in the fort will kidnap Princess Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Katsura. The Crown Prince rules the WAT on behalf of his father, the Emperor of Japan. They will use the princess to get access to Alcatraz Island so that they can free the political prisoners who are being held there, as well as fifteen Anomolies who are also living in the prison. The Empire’s scientists are experimenting on the prisoners and something has to be done to stop them. It is hoped that the Anomolies, people with superhuman abilities, will join the Resistance when they are freed.

The idea of going into the fort terrifies Ren but when he hears that his mother is still alive and is one of the prisoners in Alcatraz, he feels that he has no choice but to do what he can to free his mother. How ironic it is that the person that the Empire officials most want to capture, the Viper, is going to walk right into one of their strongholds of his own free will.

This companion to the book The Only Thing to Fear, will take readers to a cruel world where teenagers have to make some incredibly difficult decisions about their future. Should they accept the occupation and put up with the cruelties that they are subjected to, or should they fight against their oppressors and risk being tortured and executed?

At times this story is extremely painful and we suffer with Ren as his life get increasingly more and more dangerous. Young readers will come to appreciate that freedom and democracy are not things that should be taken for granted. Sometimes we have to takes responsibility for things that really are bigger than ourselves.