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Sayaka wasn’t expecting an earthquake on her last day of school. She hadn’t been expecting a tsunami, either. When a boring day of clock-watching is pushed aside by a disaster that buries her home town, she is left with nothing but questions, anger, and unfinished business with those she loves most–and may never see again.

Immediately, fifteen-year-old Sayaka is faced with the challenges of surviving the cold winter weather with her class on no food and little water; in the near future she faces the question of how to search for her family. Through it all she is forced to examine herself honestly, and act accordingly.

Can Sayaka keep going as those closest to her find their loved ones and start their new lives? Will she have the courage to look among the dead for her loved ones? Will she be able to let go of a year of intense hatred? Will she be able to start a new life, or will she crumble with the past?

When I started reading Red Sun Blue Earth, I really had little idea what I was getting into, though I expected a story that would attempt to illuminate the tragedy of disasters–specifically, the tsunami that hit Japan a few years ago. I am happy to say it is much more. Or, to say the least, it does what I expected in much greater depth than I was ready for. Deep, sometimes dark, questions are asked, and not necessarily answered in any simple fashion. “Why was I spared, and not them?” is a common question and theme.

I found the first half to three quarters of the book slow-moving, boring, and depressing–it was difficult for me to push through and read. I think this is because of the sadness and feelings of hopelessness in the story more than anything else, and I was more than satisfied by the end of the story–I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. Good questions are asked, and answered in the end, and/or left for the reader to continue to reflect upon for themselves.

Though the story is set in Japan, I felt at home with the characters, and things seemed familiar even though I’ve never been to or very interested in Japan as a country or region. The character descriptions were just enough to give me a good idea of what the author had in mind, while filling in the blanks on my own, keeping the story moving forward comfortably.

Sometimes the dialogue struck me as a bit stiff or forced, distracting me from the story, but usually it felt fitting for a bunch of junior high students, where dialogue often can be stiff, and unnatural.

One of the things that make this book shine, especially in the latter portions, are the diverse characters, and the relationships they have. The relationships in the story are really what keep you reading–just as they were what kept the characters going.

Content-wise the story is “clean”, in that there is no adult content, but there are grisly descriptions of corpses in some parts. I didn’t feel that the author went overboard on details, but she really didn’t need to in order to get the message across, and almost make my stomach churn. Even still, the impact it had on me as a reader was powerful, and positive. Overall the book made me very grateful for the life that I have, as well as cultivating in me a deep compassion for the millions of people who have undergone greater pain and hardship than I can imagine. Whether by tsunami or otherwise.

Red Sun Blue Earth is a tale of just that–great pain, and hardship. Hope in the midst of suffering, and learning to let go of hatred and past wrongs. A story of healing when healing seems impossible. A story of new beginnings.

– Jeremiah

Published on 27 June, 2014. Last updated on

4 Comments

  1. Nancy

    Great commentary. Thanks for the heads up to keep going as I would have put it down 1/2 through, but will read it all knowing there is a great ending. I want to read that book now. Is it in the stores or just online? Where can I get it?

    • Jeremiah Stiles

      You’re welcome. ๐Ÿ˜€ I think it’s only online–it’s for sure at Amazon.com.

  2. Jeremiah Stiles

    It really is! Yes, it’d be an especially neat book to read, being in Japan, I think. ๐Ÿ˜€ You’re welcome, thanks for reading!

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Into the Book was born out of a crazy idea of a blog that'd provide book reviews for teens. There aren't very many book review websites out there exposing awesome, high-quality Christian literature, and there are even fewer that target teenagers. Since 2009, we've been providing high-quality book reviews to the world through our blog. Into the Book has grown around reviews since then, but it remains our oldest project.

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