Blog Post: Utilizing Young Adult Literature to Teach about Past Nuclear Force

Often, writers look to pull inspiration from real-life experiences and events in their works. Through this, authors are able to create relatable situations in which readers can immerse themselves in the lives of characters and learns valuable lessons without actually experiencing them. This technique is used in many ways, but one could argue that there is no more important way to utilize this than to educate about past events. This becomes especially true when looking at historical events of significance such as the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

With some research, it is relatively easy to find several different pieces of Young Adult (YA) literature that utilize this horrific event of past in some way or another. The novel, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story is one of the most blatant usages. This nonfiction text “tells the true story of six-year-old Sachiko Yasui’s survival of the Nagasaki atomic bomb on August 9, 1945, and the heartbreaking and lifelong aftermath” (Stelson). Stelson’s piece looks to explore the impact of the bombings on people during that time and throughout history until today. Sachiko has won many awards since its publication, truly highlighting the value behind educating students, and readers in general, about events such as this one.

YA fiction also utilizes history in different ways and draws from true events to create fantastical worlds. The collection of stories Diverse Energies contains many pieces including “The Last Day” by Ellen Oh. In this dystopian fiction, questions such as, “what if no one knew about the effects of the atomic bomb? What if, even after the decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese emperor continued the war?” (Law). In this piece, the protagonist is a boy named Kenji who works to keep his mother and sister alive after the bombings and after the death of his father and brother in the war. This piece creatively educates about the aftermath of the nuclear attacks while piquing the interest of young readers through fiction and dystopia.

Educating young adults about historical events can be difficult in a traditional school setting, but by utilizing pieces such as Sachiko and “The Last Day,” adolescents and other readers have the opportunity to learn in other mediums. Such events as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had such impact on the movement of World War II, and the impact has continued through the building of society today. With the utilization of YA literature, education on these events can be facilitated in classrooms everywhere.


Work Cited

Law, Victoria. “Two YA Authors Explore Life After the Bomb,” bitchmedia, 2013. Retrieved from

Stelson, Caren. “Sachiko: a Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story,” Caren Stelson: author, 2019. Retrieved from

Book Review: Finding Grace by Alyssa Brugman

Alyssa Brugman’s poignant novel Finding Grace tells the story of Rachel, a quirky high-school graduate as she learns about a brain-damaged woman she cares for named Grace, and in turn, finds out much about herself. In this heartwarming tale, Rachel is first introduced to Grace through an unlikely friendship with a man named Mr. Alistair Preston. His connection with Grace is deep and mysterious, and as Rachel learns about Grace’s past, she also learns about why Mr. Preston feels so strongly for Grace. This novel is touching and relatable, and through its development readers are reminded to hold judgments on others until information on their past is revealed. This bildungsroman emphasizes the struggle associated with caring for those who cannot care for themselves along with the self-actualization that comes with taking care of others.

Finding Grace opens with “Grace had a brain injury. That’s just how she was” (Brugman 1). Brugman wastes no time in introducing the titular character, but she spends the rest of the novel providing bits of information about Grace in order to give the reader the sense of learning about Grace, or “finding” her, just as Rachel did. In this way, the reader becomes connected to Rachel, to Grace, and to the story almost immediately as Brugman immerses the reader into the plot and gives them a sense of interaction with the characters.

Most of the story revolves around the growth in the relationship between Rachel and Grace. Rachel’s preconceived notion that caring for Grace will be easy is shattered on her first day as caretaker when Grace wets herself twice and then is forgotten by Rachel in the bathtub. Rachel learns that in order to do her job, she must think for two rather than one, and must always keep Grace in the forefront of her mind. In this, she slowly but surely becomes proficient, and then successful in her role. With her successes, Rachel – and the reader – learn about Grace’s past which shifts Rachel’s understanding of Grace as a person.

This turning point in outlook comes after Rachel reads Grace’s letters and inner thoughts that were written before Grace’s accident. As Rachel realizes that Grace is more than just a job, her understanding of life changes. There is a noticeable shift in Rachel’s perspective, and her mantra of “I was eighteen and knew everything” which was noted several times changed to “I am eighteen and I know a few things.” (51, 190). This discovery leaves Rachel vulnerable to her own emotions as she begins to see that life is truly not fair. In an attempt to grasp this concept and make peace with it, she takes solace and comfort in her relationships and takes measures to bring her friends and family closer together. She treats Grace as though she was Grace before her accident, and she calls Grace by “turtledove,” a nickname and indicator of friendship on Rachel’s part (104). She also fosters a relationship with a boy she meets at university named Hiro. Hiro is quirky like Rachel but displays a confidence in himself that Rachel is drawn to. Her attraction to him forms a foundation for later romance in the novel which displays Rachel’s eventual movement toward acceptance of her own quirks. Rachel’s friendship with Alistair also strengthens as he becomes comfortable enough to reveal his love for Grace along with the guilt he feels about her accident. In this friendship, Rachel and Alistair also utilize a nickname – though instead of “turtledove,” they use “chum” (120). Last, Rachel pursues a lost friendship of her old neighbor Anna and looks to reconnect with her.

Rachel’s relationships with these characters, along with other characters in Finding Grace, are a manifestation of her journey toward ownership of oneself and understanding about the trials and tribulations of life. One character so far unmentioned is the cat, Prickles. Though most of Prickles interaction in the book is passive and curated as part of the background, Prickles represents many of the themes presented in the book. When Rachel first meets Prickles, she questions his name. This creates a dialogue and an eventual discovery about how Grace became the owner of this cat. Prickles is also the first thing Rachel is comfortable with when she begins her job as caretaker. Possibly this is because Rachel does not feel she has to impress on or prove anything to the cat, so she is naturally less tense around him compared to the rest of the company visiting Grace along with Grace herself.

About halfway through the novel, the reader is bombarded with a true atrocity as Grace’s neighbor – nicknamed Shouter – abuses Prickles; eventually Shouter ends his game by punting the cat across the lawn. As Rachel desperately looks to manage Grace and save Prickles, it becomes blatantly apparent that bad things happen to good people, and life moves on regardless of these happenings. Though there is justice in Shouter’s deed as he is later arrested, Prickles is still gravely injured and requires many weeks of recovery.

Finding Grace is a novel that outlines humanism at its finest. In its sarcastic and colloquial writing, the reader is reminded of many lessons that are learned during late adolescence and beyond. Rachel’s journey of self-actualization is one of triumphs and missteps, not unlike most teens’. In Finding Grace, we do indeed find Grace, but if one takes a step back, one may also find themselves.


Work Cited

Brugman, Alyssa. Finding Grace. Crows Nest, Australia, Allen Unwin, 2001.