A Boy at War Questions and Answers
by Harry Mazer

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Why was the book A Boy at War a "page-turner"? Write specific examples from the book (textual evidence) to support your view.

The suspenseful elements that make A Boy at War a page-turner are concerned with the impact of the aerial attack on the three boys and Adam’s father, as well as how anti-Japanese discrimination will affect Davi.

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The suspenseful aspects of the novel are primarily concerned with what will happen to the three boys after they set out in a small fishing boat. The reader already knows what happened in Pearl Harbor that day, so they worry that the boys will be killed accidentally. In addition, because Adam Penko’s father is a naval officer, the reader can anticipate that he is in danger of dying in the attack. Another important element of the plot is the Japanese American identity of Adam’s friend Davi Mori. Because there was already widespread anti-Japanese discrimination before the attack, the reader nervously anticipates the impact of the day’s events on Davi.

The suspense regarding the three boys is established when they decide to go fishing that day. The reader realizes that their being in a tiny open boat will put them at serious risk of injury or death as collateral damage of the attack on the navy ships. Furthermore, the information that Lieutenant Penko serves aboard one of the ships raises the reader’s expectation that he will perish on-board. The suspense is intensified near the end, as Adam and his mother await word about his father, only to learn that he is missing in action.

The book includes foreshadowing of Davi’s later suffering from White Americans’ discrimination against people of Japanese heritage. Adam’s father actively discourages his son from having a Japanese American friend. The author’s mentioning Lieutenant Pelko’s discriminatory behavior encourages the reader to wonder what might happen to Davi. Indeed, when the boys are in the boat, Adam reacts based on his father’s views and attacks his friend.

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