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Stay Where You Are And Then Leave

Review

Stay Where You Are And Then Leave

It seems to me that WWI is the oft neglected world war in children’s and young adult literature. I could certainly be wrong, but in my years of reading books for these audiences, that has been my experience. Therefore, it was a pleasure to read STAY WHERE YOU ARE & THEN LEAVE by John Boyne and to realize that a great book has been added to the scant pile of WWI literature for children and young adults. 
 
Alfie Summerfield, the main character of STAY WHERE YOU ARE & THEN LEAVE, is a young British boy living in London. His life is grand until his 5th birthday, when WWI breaks out. Soon after, his father, Georgie, enlists to do his duty and leaves Alfie and his mother on their own.  And even though the common refrain is that the war will be over before Christmas, four years have passed and Georgie has not returned home. His letters, even the ones that Alfie’s mom refuses to allow Alfie to read, stopped arriving more than a year ago. Alfie’s mom told him that Georgie can’t write because it would jeopardize the success of his secret mission, but Alfie is convinced his father is dead and just wants the truth. 
 
Boyne has a gift for capturing the confusion and nonsense of war by viewing it through the eyes of a young protagonist.
 
In an effort to help his small family survive, Alfie secretly shines shoes at King’s Cross Station and sneaks the few pennies he makes into his mother’s purse. One day, while shining the shoes of a military doctor, Alfie makes a discovery about his father’s whereabouts. Using the money he’s earned, Alfie embarks on a secret mission of his own and takes his first train ride ever in order to find his father. Alfie’s mission is successful in that he finds Georgie, but he is not the father that Alfie remembers from four years ago. Alfie struggles to figure out what happened to his father and how to help him, all while trying to reunite his family --- the only thing he has wished for for the past four years. 
 
Boyne is no stranger to intermediate grade novels about war, as he also authored THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS. He has a gift for capturing the confusion and nonsense of war by viewing it through the eyes of a young protagonist. While STAY WHERE YOU ARE & THEN LEAVE is not nearly as skewed by this view as THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS, nor is it an allegory, Alfie still serves as a means of seeing war for the unexplainable act that it is. Boyne does a great job of including lots of information about the war and time period without burdening the text with these facts. In this text, he does an exceptional job of including multiple perspectives about the War and war in general, including a “conchie” or a consciousness objector. Shell shock, or as we now know it as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), impacted thousands during WWI and ultimately affected Alfie’s family as well. Boyne provides a vivid description of shell shock, but does so in an appropriate way for young readers. 
 
STAY WHERE YOU ARE & THEN LEAVE is a powerful historical-fiction novel that will give readers of all ages an unforgettable look at WWI.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on February 7, 2014

Stay Where You Are And Then Leave
by John Boyne

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2015
  • Genres: Historical Fiction, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • ISBN-10: 1250062861
  • ISBN-13: 9781250062864