War affects everyone, even those not fighting in it. This has never been truer than during the Vietnam War, a time where new generations began questioning the ethics and motives behind war and began challenging those in authority. Living during this chaotic time is seventeen-year-old Rachel Morelli. She has grown up near Kent State University, where her father teaches, and she knows the campus like the back of her hand. The only problem is she has no desire to spend the rest of her life there. She has dreams of attending Pratt University in New York and taking its top-notch art program. Rachel knows her goals are far-fetched, since her Dad would never let her go to Pratt and expects her to attend Kent State.
Rachel has long awaited the return of someone special from Vietnam. Evan is her neighbor, best friend and secret love. She knows that if he just comes home, the stresses of senior year and convincing her father to let her go to Pratt would disappear. But as soon as she sees Evan, she knows everything has changed. Not only has Evan undergone traumatic events, but he lost part of his hand in the war. Rachel spends her time helping Evan adjust back to normal life, while he helps her work towards her college dream. Will it all be worth it? Will Rachel achieve her dream of attending Pratt? Will Evan ever know how much Rachel loves him, and will he feel the same?
I really enjoyed reading Leaving Kent State by Sabrina Fedel. The novel is the perfect balance between a love story and historical fiction. I can tell the author did a large amount of research on the Vietnam War, and not just the events but also how people reacted to it and the true feelings of the time period. It feels as if you are transported to the Vietnam War era while reading. The author did a great job of making the novel historically accurate, but it wasn’t overbearing. The historical elements were intertwined with a love story, one so classic and swoon-worthy that you can’t help but become invested.
The novel’s descriptive language provided great imagery and ideally set the scene. The novel’s main character, Rachel, is very likeable and shows great character development throughout the novel. Her thoughts and feelings are easy to relate to. Overall, Leaving Kent State is a great novel and I would recommend it to anyone looking for historical fiction with elements of romance.