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Stoked - 1969 Paperback – February 6, 2016
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From Kirkus Reviews
A novel offers a coming-of-age tale set in the Vietnam War era.
Forst (The Journey of Hannah Woods, 2013, etc.) in her latest effort presents Jake Edwards, a typical, middle-class kid but with a big problem: severe dyslexia. When he flunks summer school yet again, his parents give up and send him to live with his “hippie” Grandma Rose, who teaches at an alternative school (The Peaceable Institute) in upstate New York. Complicating the move is the fact that Grandma Rose and her son and daughter-in-law have a fraught relationship. Rose strongly opposes the Vietnam War. Jake’s parents, while not flag-wavers, support the conflict,
particularly because Jake’s older brother, Aaron, who enlisted in the Army, works in Saigon as a radio operator. Jake’s family situation infuriates him. He looks up to his big brother, distrusts Grandma Rose, and hates being uprooted with no say in the matter. The Peaceable Institute gives Jake a different view of the war, a confusing and scary one. But can he
protest the war without being disloyal to his brother? Events escalate. Jake is teargassed during a peaceful protest in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An investigative journalist exposes the My Lai Massacre in South Vietnam. The Kent State shootings in Ohio divide the nation. And Aaron disappears from his relatively safe haven in
Saigon. Jake can be borderline annoying with his Sturm und Drang, but then the reader remembers that the character is not just a teenager, but a youth with problems that would challenge anyone. Forst tells a good yarn; the dialogue mostly rings true, and scenes like the protest in Cambridge give the narrative believable chaos. Rose remains a benevolent and
wise soul without becoming a tie-dyed caricature. While the author clearly sides with the protesters, she never demonizes those who served. The timeline in the appendix is enlightening and helpful. The novel may be especially valuable for today’s teens, many of whom see the battles in Vietnam as ancient history.
An engaging and realistic story about Americans protesting the Vietnam conflict.
Top customer reviews
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The backdrop of the story is his conflict between protesting the Vietnam War & staying loyal to his older brother who is a soldier serving in Vietnam. The author cleverly develops a story line allowing him to do both.
Stoked - 1969 is an enjoyable fast read, that allows you to come away with a good feeling & a smile at the end of the last chapter.
Wendy Rothkopf, Music Teacher - Comsewogue School District
Jake, an astute, competent 14-year-old, finds life hard because he constantly has to contend with his learning disability, dyslexia, and everything that comes along with it. All he wants is to be able to read, be accepted by his classmates, and be like everyone else. It's a tender, moving story that draws the reader because it deals with issues that are of particular importance to teenagers: trying to keep a weakness hidden, being different, bullying, friendship, and the totality of academic and social difficulties that accompany these concerns. Readers, both disabled and non-disabled, can see themselves in the story and both would profit from reading it.
Forst's book deals with a singular time in American history - the Vietnam War. The United States involvement began in the fifties when Eisenhower was president, and escalated with each successive president, the peak occurring in the turbulent years of the Johnson administration, including 1969, the time this story take place.
There was a uniqueness to this period. As Marshall McLuhan pointed out, this was the first TV war that "brought the brutality of war into the living room." People were exposed daily to images of death and destruction. Highly charged emotions were exacerbated by the draft - a draft for a war that was not even declared by Congress. Few people understood what was happening and why it was happening - the result was political turmoil. There were those who thought that joining the armed forces was the patriotic thing to do. There were others who thought the opposite, with he resultant anti-war protests. Still others were not sure what to think.
Through credible understanding characters, and plausible winning dialogue, Forst brings to life this tumultuous period in our history. And, most important is that it's as relevant to today's teenagers as it was to those in the 1960s.
Most recent customer reviews
It was a good story with great characters.Read more