The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is an emotional journey of a young girl growing up during wartime. This story is touching as Elise makes one last effort to rekindle a friendship broken by time.
Elise Sontag is a German American teenager living in Iowa during World War 2. Her parents have lived in the US for twenty years but are not legal citizens. While the war in Europe is escalating, her father is arrested and charged with being a Nazi sympathizer. Rather than be separated, the entire family is interned at a government camp in Crystal City, Texas.
Life at the camp becomes bearable when Elise befriends Mariko Inoue, a Japanese American girl from California. They become close while spending all their free time together. Together they plan for a future in New York City with a fresh start and new careers. These plans get put on hold when Elise's family is sent back to Germany in a prisoner exchange.
I simply loved this book and the characters that Susan Meissner brings to life, by the end of the book they felt like old friends. The historical research is evident but seamlessly woven into a very realistic story. There are broad themes of friendship, love, identity, family loyalty, and the damages of war -- all with an important historical backdrop.
I adored the character Elise Sontag and cheers for her to overcome the huge obstacles placed in the way of her happiness. I highly recommend this story if you enjoy WWII historical fiction. *JK*