The War Outside


By Monica Hesse

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$11.99 CAD

From the bestselling and award-winning author of Girl in the Blue Coat, comes an extraordinary novel of conviction, friendship, and betrayal, when two teenage girls meet in an American internment camp during WWII. 

It's 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado—until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.

Margot and Haruko meet at the high school in Crystal City, a "family internment camp" for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother's health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.

With everything around them falling apart, Haruko and Margot find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone—even each other?

  • Praise for The War Outside:A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018A 2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults PickA 2018 BCCB Bulletin Blue Ribbon TitleA 2019 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
    "Once again, Monica Hesse delivers an incredibly compelling and beautifully researched novel. The War Outside vividly brings readers into an underrepresented and dark period of American history. A must-read for fans of historical fiction."
    Ruta Sepetys, #1 New York Times bestselling author
  • * "...superb....A satisfying and bittersweet novel, perfect for those who enjoyed Markus Zusak's The Book Thief."
    SLJ, starred review
  • * " extraordinary novel of injustice and xenophobia based on real history."
    Booklist, starred review
  • * "...a moving book that successfully describes an unjust aspect of U.S. History"
    Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • * "Keeps readers guessing through the final pages."
    BCCB, starred review
  • * "Teens and adults interested in WWII books, especially situations that haven't been written about extensively,will want to experience this story."
    SLC, starred review
  • "Monica Hesse takes a setting we think we understand and shifts it in an important way...a tightly plotted exploration of the consequences of fear."
    The New York Times Book Review
  • "Monica Hesse's The War Outside pierces the heart with its exceptional story of family, friends and country...Riveting and meticulously researched, this story reverberates with authentic voices as it explores adolescent growth under dreadful circumstances."
  • "timely...[Hesse] again uses a well-researched historical backdrop to tell a powerful coming-of-age story."
    The Washington Post
  • "Hesse's books are like time machines-vehicles that help us explore our past."
  • "I did not expect this book to knock me off my feet with its lyrical brilliance, vivid storyline, and heart wrenching ending. Let's just say, if all historical fiction was like this book, it'd be my most-read genre."
    Book Riot
  • Praise for Girl in the Blue Coat:The Edgar Award Winner for Best Young Adult Mystery Novel 2017
    A New York Public Library Best Book for Teens of 2016
    An Entertainment Weekly Best YA Book of 2016
    A Booklist Best Young Adult Book of 2016
    A Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People Selection 2017
    A 2017 Indies Choice Awards Finalist for Best Young Adult Book
    A YALSA 2017 Best Book for Young Adults
    A 2017 Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year
    A 2017 Wyoming Soaring Eagle Book Award Nominee

    A 2017 Washington, D.C. Capitol Choices List recommended title
    A 2018 Connecticut Nutmeg Book Award Nominee
    2018 All Iowa Young Adults Read
  • "Girl in the Blue Coat is a powerful, compelling coming-of-age story set against the dark and dangerous backdrop of World War II. It's an important and page-turning look at the choices all of us--including young adults--have to make in wartime. A beautiful combination of heartbreak, loss, young love, and hope."
    Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale
  • "A tapestry of guilt and acceptance, growing responsibility, and reluctant heroism, Hanneke's coming-of-age under heartbreaking circumstances is a jarring reminder of how war consumes and transforms the passions of ordinary life. Every devastating moment of this beautiful novel is both poignant and powerful, and every word feels true."
    Elizabeth Wein, New York Times bestselling author of Black Dove, White Raven; Rose Under Fire; and the Printz Honor-winning Code Name Verity
  • "In an occupied city, a young woman's daring transforms into true courage when she confronts a mystifying disappearance. From page one, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Enthralling."
    Judy Blundell, New York Times bestselling author of Strings Attached and the National Book Award-winning What I Saw and How I Lied
  • "It's no small feat to bring the past to life, especially a history as dark and desperate as World War II. Monica Hesse does just this with Hanneke's story. Brace yourself, dear reader, to have your heart bruised--and possibly even broken--in the most meaningful of ways."
    Ryan Graudin, author of The Walled City and Wolf by Wolf
  • "Taut and intelligent... the historical setting is rendered the way only an expert can do it."
    The Washington Post
  • * "[An] affecting novel...that skillfully combines reality with fiction. Her characters come alive, and...Hesse's pacing infuses her story with thriller suspense, enriching the narrative with dramatic surprises both small and large."
    Booklist (starred review)
  • * "Riveting... a gripping historical mystery."
    Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • * "This fast-paced story is alternately touching, heart-pounding and wrenching--but always gripping...a heartrending, moving story."
    VOYA (starred review)
  • * "A poignant, wonderfully crafted story of love and loss, courage and redemption."
    Shelf Awareness (starred review)
  • "[An] intelligent and humane historical mystery."
    The Wall Street Journal
  • "The themes of love, betrayal, heroism, social responsibility, and atonement are beautifully intertwined with well-developed characters and a compelling story line. Thoroughly researched, this work brings history alive in a clear and concise way that rings true. A must-read for fans of historical fiction, especially stories set during World War II."
    School Library Journal
  • "Rich in content and emotion, this is a first-rate companion to the historical tales of the onderduikers, the hidden Jews of Holland, and a compelling read."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • "This heartbreaking story of terror and loss sweeps you into a time-is-running-out mystery that delivers plot twists and a shocking final punch that'll haunt you for days."
    Justine Magazine

On Sale
Sep 25, 2018
Page Count
336 pages

About the Author

NOVL - Author photo of Monica Hesse

Monica Hesse is the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in the Blue Coat, American Fire, The War Outside, and They Went Left, as well as a Pulitzer Prize finalist columnist at the Washington Post. She lives outside Washington, DC with her family. Monica invites you to visit her online at

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From NOVL Nation

“It was absolutely heartbreaking, and reading these characters made me feel so many emotions. They were so well developed and the writing in this story was so captivating and beautiful. This book also does highlight some LGBTQ+ elements, and I found it quite enjoyable in a historical fiction that takes place during WWII.”

—Kathleen, Read Forever More

“What stood out to me the most is how these type of camps and these types of stories are so rarely talked about. I know this is just one story in an untold number that has finally found a voice. When I reached the end of the story and got to the last chapter, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I had goose flesh at the brilliance of Hesse’s mind.”

—Sara, A Gingerly Review

“It’s raw, it’s real, it’s impactful. For about 80% of this book, all that was going through my head was simply just, wow. Giving this book anything less than five stars just feels wrong.”

—Emmi, Emmi Rose Reads

The War Outside is a rollercoaster of emotions. This novel highlights family, friendship and importantly, of understanding and basic humanity. It’s so much more than a history lesson. With the twists, you don’t see coming, this novel, and all the emotion it instills will keep you on your toes and unable to stop turning pages.”

—Terrie, Just Another Book B*tch

“I loved the dual perspectives and how well the author put you into each girl’s shoes. I also enjoyed the author’s writing style. It flowed easily and sucked you into the story.”

—Jessica, Odd and Bookish

“Haruko and Margot’s friendship is deep, transcends cultural barriers, and does not define their relationship along platonic or romantic lines. I know that this kind of storytelling is infuriating for some, but I always enjoy it when a writer let’s a bond speak for itself without definition.”

—Kate, Snarky Yet Satisfying

The War Outside is a worthwhile read. It reinforces lessons I already knew by heart and teaches me others that I will always keep with me.”

—Nicole, NewbookcatsREADS

“I think the two point of view gave a special something to the novel because the reader was able to see what the camp was like for both girls and their families. They were able to build this terrifying and unstable world for the reader that was real and heartbreaking. This was definitely a darker read, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.”

—Alex, The Blonde Bookworm

Book Club Guide

NOVL - Book Club Guide - 'The War Outside' by Monica Hesse

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Listen to an Excerpt


A Conversation with Samira Ahmed & Monica Hesse, authors of Internment and The War Outside

LB School: How did the ideas for each of your books come to you, and why did you feel that they were stories that needed to be told?

Monica Hesse: While I was doing some research for a previous book, I came across a black and white photo of a young woman in a tiara, wearing a corsage. It had obviously been taken at a school dance; the caption said the girl was 16, and the prom queen of Federal High School in Crystal City, Texas. It also explained that Crystal City was an internment camp. This completely blew my mind. If your education was like mine, Japanese internment in World War II was skimmed over in history class—maybe something you’d talk about for a day or two. I didn’t know much about individual experiences, and I was completely drawn to this young woman in the photograph. What would it be like to be the prom queen of your internment camp? What kind of internment camp would even have such a thing?

It turned out that Crystal City also had a football team, cheerleaders, a beauty salon—and that hundreds of teenagers, Japanese-American and German-American, grew up there, trying to eke out a regular American existence against the backdrop of imprisonment. I’m always looking for stories like that: what is it like to be a normal teenager in an abnormal time, and impossible circumstances? My two main characters, Haruko and Margot, are now prisoners through no fault of their own. Their families are falling apart. Their worlds are upended. And they have to ask themselves: in a camp full of people the government says are spies, who can they trust? How do you know who the enemy is, when your country says it’s you?


Monica Hesse

About the Author

Monica Hesse is the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in the Blue Coat, American Fire, The War Outside, and They Went Left, as well as a Pulitzer Prize finalist columnist at the Washington Post. She lives outside Washington, DC with her family. Monica invites you to visit her online at

Learn more about this author