23 February 2016

Review #349: Up From The Sea by Leza Lowitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"In this dangerous world that we live in, where hatred and violence and natural disasters sometimes collide to almost overwhelm us, we each can help in some way. "

----Marsha Blackburn

Leza Lowitz, an American author residing in Tokyo, pens her new YA verse novel, Up From the Sea that narrates the story of a young football-aspiring-dreams Japanese teenage boy whose happy life washes away by the roaring tsunami on March 2011, devastating not only his dreams but uprooting his life from his village, thereby losing his whole family. But this is not a story about grief, this is a story which tells the readers how to survive the overwhelming pain, and stand strong against all odds. Moreover, this book also highlights the benefits and value of unity and kindness during a natural disaster.


Running through my ruined town,
pack flapping
against my back.

Plowing through blocks
strewn with heaps of
in a marshland

In March 2011, a massive tsunami devastates Japan. Kai, a biracial teen from a coastal village, loses nearly everyone and everything in the storm.

When he’s offered a trip to New York to meet kids whose lives were changed by 9/11, Kai decides to look for his estranged father. Visiting Ground Zero on its tenth anniversary, Kai realizes the only way to make something good come out of the disaster back home is to return there and help rebuild his town.

Kai is a half Japanese teenage boy, living with his single Japanese mother and his grandparents . Like every other day on March 11, 2011, Kai went to school and his mother went to the market. Little did they knew, that on this very particular day, a tsunami would destroy their lives completely, which destroys Kai's whole village. But how Kai emerges from the loss of his mother and grandparents as well as his village is something really remarkable and enlightening for anyone. Kai has a dream - he wants to be a footballer, but his dream comes true when Kai and his friends form a football team from the Tsunami-affected village and despite when all their property and loved ones were lost to the raging waves, yet they did not lose their spirit and aspired for a better future by highlighting their lost, forgotten and devastated village in front of the world with the help of their football team.

The story is told in verse and is beautifully portrayed with diverse and heart-felt emotions that will only make the readers' heart yearn for Kai's journey. In other words, the story is sad and fascinating to read. The verse is smooth and simple and reflects realism and emotions. The pacing of the book is fast and can be read within a few hours as the story is so absorbing. The author's writing style is eloquent with carefully chosen words both from local dialect as well as polished English words.

The setting is the backdrop of a fictional Japanese coastal town and through Kai's story, the author brings alive the culture as well as the local folklore of the country. Moreover, the author vividly captures the landscape, the food, the language, the people, the streets and the sea with arresting details. Yes, the author not only makes the readers feel deeply but also transports them right in front of the Tsunami-raging sea and makes them also  face the after-effects. And yes the scenes do come alive right in front of the eyes of the readers.

The characters feel very real and they all have an air of sympathy and hope in their hearts. The story is centered around Kai's life after the Tsunami. Kai is a teenager and he is going through a lot of changes in his life, firstly, he has a problem with him being a half Japanese, as he constantly gets bullied and mocked by other kids in the school, hence he is not happy abut it. Next he at times disrespects his mother, then after the Tsunami, he is desperate and angry about everything when he tries to find his family. In short, he is a typical teenager with bigger dreams, but that gets destroyed when hit by a Tsunami. His character evolves a lot after the Tsunami, he changes himself from being lonely and angry to someone who is sympathetic with a bit of hope and kind. In the end, I deeply feel for Kai and could not let him go.

The supporting cast, comprises largely of residents of that coastal town, who are extremely kind and their loss unites them together which gives them strength to look after one another, help, love and support through difficult times. Moreover, they arise from the rubles and try to start a new life. Their spirit towards having a new start is something really inspiring. Even though help did not reach them right after the Tsunami, yet they tried to help one another on their own.

The story also highlights the idea of orphan teenagers sharing their grief and pain with that of 9/11 hit orphan teenagers by visiting their homeland. It is more like connecting with another person's loss be it in a natural disaster or a man-made one. The idea is really motivating.

In a nutshell, this is a must-read YA novel that highlights pain, grief and ultimately hope through the after-effects of a Tsunami in Japan. And the story is filled with so much deep evocative emotion, that it is bound to bring a tear as well as smile to the face of the reader.

Verdict: A must read book with strong message of unity and hope during a natural disaster!!

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Leza Lowitz, for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
I'm a California girl living in Tokyo, where I write and run a yoga studio. For over two decades, I've been charting my quest in twenty books in many genres. I hope I'm just getting started.
I’m interested in ideas of identity and history. How is culture shaped, and how are we shaped by it? All of my books deal with notions of finding home.
"Up from the Sea," my debut Young Adult novel in verse about the March 11, 2011 Japan tsunami, is just out from Crown Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House. It's about making a home within yourself when the only home you've ever known is destroyed.
Visit her here

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