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Book Review: In the Tunnel by Julie Lee

4.5 Would’ve given 5 stars because the writing was superb, but the epilogue was very disappointing to me and I felt like it was also immoral having a man remarry instead of reunite with his family and really I felt he had no excuse even from a weak-human pov since he knew where they would be/where they would’ve headed, plus seemed very out of character for this person as well.

But, after this, let me just say: Wow. It has been a long time since I’ve read a book so beautifully written. Lee’s writing-style is so poetic! I can feel, see, taste everything. On top of this, nothing is overdone. There are no long-winded descriptions slowing down the plot. Just enough description to get a sense of the surroundings, character’s emotions, and so forth, but not too much to bore somebody like myself who has a small attention span haha.

I found switching between the past and present tense was really clever, and done in such a way that was not confusing and flowed well.

One qualm I kinda had was when Myung-gi and his sister went to steal corn from the farmer. I’m not sure how I felt about that. I get they were in a foreign land and starving, but was it really necessary? Could they not have asked the bookkeeper they ran into to help them out with food instead? Could they not hunt in those parts—and if not, why? I feel like it’s morally questionable at best (could be wrong though) and wasn’t sure how I felt about Myung-gi mentioning how Alpha would do this, making it appear as a good thing. There were also no consequences following their act of stealing, only a consequence for having gotten lost in the fields. I’m not sure morally speaking if this was okay, and just want to mention it in case other parents see an issue with it or want to discuss with their kids.

This book was fairly dark especially for being geared toward middle grade (I think..?). There were a lot of near death experiences and loss of life. The reality of war and evils of communism were very in your face. A young sensitive reader might want to wait till they are older or skip certain parts.

The characters were well fleshed out. Uhma was such a strong woman, and beautiful mother who made countless sacrifices for her children. There was so much character growth too! The MC started out a bit insecure and cowardly, but really became a strong character toward the end.

(This is a spoiler—>) The epilogue was disappointing and it was not the ending I wanted. I was disappointed that alpha who was portrayed as being so strong and noble “remarried” instead of going to find his lost family both from a moral standpoint but also because you would’ve thought he would’ve sought out his lost family. It wasn’t like he didn’t know where they were going. It seemed very out of character. It’s also disappointing from the MC’s pov. I really wanted him to hear from his father that he was forgiven for not keeping watch, and so forth. I also felt terrible for his mother.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book. I purposefully took a long while to read it, actually, because I just did not want to be done. I found it so inspiring—it was helping my own writing. I would often take breaks from reading to work on my own books. I plan on definitely reading more from this author and keeping a lookout for new book releases. She is definitely now one of my favourite authors and this has probably been one of my favourite fictional reads of the year for the writing style aspect, at least. As far as the story goes, though, I am still very annoyed by the ending. It was also not as hopeful of an ending as I would've liked to see and as I expect from a book geared toward a younger audience. I get it. My own MG books can be a little dark as that is a reality in the world, but this book was a bit too heavy-handed in that respect maybe.

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