The Sand Pounder

Love and Drama on Horseback in WWII

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
281 Pages
Reviewed on 10/02/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

The Sand Pounder: Love and Drama on Horseback in WWII is a young adult historical novel written by M.J. Evans. Covering a period between 1942 to 1944, the book follows seventeen-year-old Jane Morris, a tenacious teenager with an affinity for horses who joins the US Coast Guard's mounted Beach Patrol, the Sand Pounders. Seeing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Jane feels a deep sense of duty toward her country. She disguises herself as a man and, alongside her faithful mare Star, enlists in the Sand Pounders, where she quickly distinguishes herself with her expert handling of horses. After Jane and her partner, Stephan, are stationed at Lincoln City, Stephan soon discovers her true identity. But he chooses to protect her secret, and they start developing feelings for each other.

Full of heart, The Sand Pounder is set to woo readers who love coming-of-age stories involving animals. M.J. Evans' tale of World War II is filled with romance and drama that reminds you of a nostalgic time of innocence and leaves you pleasantly optimistic. Setting the story during World War II, M.J. Evans masterfully incorporates actual events from history to provide an added sense of authenticity to the story. The characters are realistic and easily relatable. Jane was easy to root for, and I adored her relationship with Stephan. The depiction of Japanese families and their captivity in internment camps was as accurate as it was heartbreaking. I think The Sand Pounder is a novel that will strongly appeal to readers who enjoy romance and historical fiction.

Vincent Dublado

The Sand Pounder by M.J. Evans is one of those rare historical novels with a charm that appeals to both young and adult readers. Perhaps because it has those traditional elements like a brave heroine, a trusted animal companion, a love interest, and social issues mixed into one. It kind of reminds you of Mulan. Anyone living along the West Coast of the United States didn’t feel safe during World War 2. The already understaffed Army combines with the Coast Guard to form patrols up and down the beaches. They were called Sand Pounders—a call to service that went out to horsemen. A young female equestrian named Jane from Tillamook, Oregon intends to enlist. The problem is the Sand Pounders only accept male recruits. Jane solicits the help of her friend Jeannie to make her look like a boy. Cutting her blonde locks and dyeing her hair dark brown, Jane assumes the name of John Morris. As she proves to be a valuable asset to the Sand Pounders, she bears witness to how war separates people, seeing how it affects her Japanese friend. She also falls in love, but with her true identity in secret, how can she let Stephan know?

Feminist empowerment is the prime message here: Defy the rules, look like a boy, and choose how you want to serve your country. But in a larger context, The Sand Pounder is more than just these things. Jane is still an ordinary girl who knows how to fall in love—and with a guy who also enlists to become a Sand Pounder. From the way M.J. Evans describes Stephan, she gives you enough reason to approve of Jane’s love interest. You are also required to exercise a suspension of belief in passing Jane off as John Morris, and this is not difficult. She is able to sustain a feigned identity throughout the pages so that you play along with it. The harsh reality of war does not provide a distraction, but rather gives a realistic feel to Jane’s existence. The Sand Pounder is a blend of pure story and character that is worth reading.

Foluso Falaye

Seventeen-year-old Jane and her older brother, Luke, were forced to grow up fast when their parents died of polio two years ago. To make things worse, the US is involved in world War II and Germany and Japan may invade the country. In a bid to prevent this, the U.S. Coast Guard—from 1942 to 1944—enlists horsemen to patrol the beaches along the east and west coasts and be on the lookout for any evidence of enemy activity. Jane, who wishes to join the Coast Guard and become a Sand Pounder, is disappointed when she finds only men are allowed to join. This does not stop her though. Follow Jane as she engages in coast guard training and beach patrol with her chestnut mare, Star, in The Sand Pounder by M.J. Evans.

M.J. Evans creates a beautiful story set in a troubling time with a lovable and warm protagonist; Jane won't let sexism stop her from fighting for what she believes in. The Sand Pounder reveals that anybody, no matter their gender, can make a positive difference in society. I was completely engrossed in the story with its adroit mixture of themes: young love, war, disguise, racism, loss, animal love, horseback riding, and more. While reading about Jane's activities as a Sand Pounder, it seemed like I was the one in the situation because I was quite jumpy and hopeful that her real identity would not be exposed. Though the story is well-paced, readers are allowed to digest events before other ones are introduced. The Sand Pounder is recommended for young adults who seek historical stories with a war theme and an endearing storyline.