Stoked – 1969

February 2016
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Synopsis for Stoked – 1969

The world has lost its mind.

At least that’s how it looks to fourteen-year-old Jake Edwards, whose whole life is upended in the blink of an eye.

Struggling with dyslexia and unable to read, Jake is sent to live with his wacky grandmother in the Adirondack Mountains in a last ditch effort to further his education.

But with his older brother off to war, and America divided over its role in Vietnam, Jake finds himself learning a lot more than what’s taught in the classroom.

A Brief Excerpt from the Book

The intercom clicked on. “Jake Edwards, please come to the office.”
The assault had begun – the Jake Edwards Massacre of August, 1969.
Would I survive the last day of summer school? I had my doubts.
My nerves were tangled like a mess of twisted fishing tackle. Patrick Evans, a ninth-grader who played junior varsity football, kept kicking the back of my chair.
“Hey, Jake,” he jeered. “What’d you do now?”
I had no idea.
Mr. Schuler looked pissed. He sighed like he didn’t know if he was going to make it to the end of the day. I knew that feeling.
Embarrassed, I wanted to vanish to an island where no one needed to know how to read or write or spell. If only I could wiggle my nose like a genie and transport myself there. I’d relax under a coconut tree, sip a Coke, and munch on potato chips.
I picked up my backpack and prepared to run, hoping I’d make it to the principal’s office in one piece.
I seemed to attract all the jerks.
And why not, I thought. I was the perfect target, the kid who couldn’t read.
I hated school.

BOOK REVIEWS – Stoked – 1969

“5 Stars!”

“A great read and an important one!”

Jake, an astute, competent 14-year-old finds life hard because he constantly has to contend with his learning disability, dyslexia, and everything that comes along with it. All he wants is to be able to read, be accepted by his classmates, and be like everyone else. It’s a tender, moving story that draws the reader because it deals with issues that are of particular importance to teenagers: trying to keep a weakness hidden, being different, bullying, friendship, and the totality of academic and social difficulties that accompany these concerns. Readers, both disabled and non-disabled, can see themselves in the story and both would profit from reading it.

Forst’s book deals with a singular time in American history – the Vietnam War. The United States involvement began in the fifties when Eisenhower was president, and escalated with each successive president, the peak occurring in the turbulent years of the Johnson administration, including 1969, the time this story takes place.

There was a uniqueness to this period. As Marshall McLuhan pointed out, this was the first TV war that “brought the brutality of war into the living room.” People were exposed daily to images of death and destruction. Highly charged emotions were exacerbated by the draft – a draft for a war that was not even declared by Congress. Few people understood what was happening and why it was happening – and the result was political turmoil. There were those who thought that joining the armed forces was the patriotic thing to do. There were others who thought the opposite, with the resultant anti-war protests. Still others were not sure what to think.

Through credible understanding characters, and plausible winning dialogue, Forst brings to life this tumultuous period in our history. And, most important is that it’s as relevant to today’s teenagers as it was to those in the 1960s.

I’m stoked!

Fran Silverblank, Professor Emerita, Dowling College

Goodreads Review  May 11, 2016

Terry Pearson rated it 5 stars! Right On, Right On!

I had the good fortune of winning a copy of this book in a giveaway on goodreads. That being said; here is my unbiased, uninfluenced review of said book.

Stoked 1969 is the story of Jake Edwards, a young teenaged boy coming of age who struggles with dyslexia and this brother’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Young Jake torn at my soul and often I found myself wanting to reach out to him. The story references the late 60’s accurately. I was the same age as Jake in ’69 and I cannot remember one good thing about the war. Splattered all across America on television sets, it left you in horror at the end of the news.

Flashback to 1970: I can remember protesting against the Vietnam War outside the Whitehouse ( no offense). It was a serious time and one that ripped at my heart. To see so many young men, barely capable of tying their shoes, sent off to war; many never to return alive. Jake Edwards had a right to be concerned.

Right On, Helene Forst!


A novel offers a coming-of-age tale set in the Vietnam War era.

Forst (The Journey of Hannah Woods, 2013, etc.) in her latest effort presents Jake Edwards, a typical, middle-class kid but with a big problem: severe dyslexia. When he flunks summer school yet again, his parents give up and send him to live with his “hippie” Grandma Rose, who teaches at an alternative school (The Peaceable Institute) in upstate New York. Complicating the move is the fact that Grandma Rose and her son and daughter-in-law have a fraught relationship. Rose strongly opposes the Vietnam War. Jake’s parents, while not flag-wavers, support the conflict, particularly because Jake’s older brother, Aaron, who enlisted in the Army, works in Saigon as a radio operator. Jake’s family situation infuriates him. He looks up to his big brother, distrusts Grandma Rose, and hates being uprooted with no say in the matter. The Peaceable Institute gives Jake a different view of the war, a confusing and scary one. But can he protest the war without being disloyal to his brother? Events escalate. Jake is teargassed during a peaceful protest in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An investigative journalist exposes the My Lai Massacre in South Vietnam. The Kent State shootings in Ohio divide the nation. And Aaron disappears from his relatively safe haven in Saigon. Jake can be borderline annoying with his Sturm und Drang, but then the reader remembers that the character is not just a teenager, but a youth with problems that would challenge anyone. Forst tells a good yarn; the dialogue mostly rings true, and scenes like the protest in Cambridge give the narrative believable chaos. Rose remains a benevolent and wise soul without becoming a tie-dyed caricature. While the author clearly sides with the protesters, she never demonizes those who served. The timeline in the appendix is enlightening and helpful. The novel may be especially valuable for today’s teens, many of whom see the battles in Vietnam as ancient history.

An engaging and realistic story about Americans protesting the Vietnam conflict.

Engaging read!

This is a very good read engaging the reader from the very first page. We experienced the turmoil of fourteen-year-old Jake as he struggled to make sense of his learning difficulties. The story is set against the turmoil of the Vietnam War. Middle schoolers, as well as adults, will be immersed in Jake’s struggle as well as that of the country’s struggle.

Dr. Morris Shorofsky, MD and Roanna Shorofsky, Former Head of School at The Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York City

I consumed this book with relish. Terrific! Made me sniffle and chuckle and relive that year rooting for Jake all the way.

Larry Cantwell, East Hampton Town Supervisor

This book was terrific! Very fast reading and thoroughly enjoyable. Lots of emotions to draw you in so it was hard to put down.

Joanne Claflin


This is the story of a troubled high school student suffering from dyslexia who can not read. After failing again in summer school his parents ship him off to his estranged teacher grandmother who teaches in a small isolated school in the mountains. After a frustrated start in school work & making friends the story evolves into showing how Jake overcomes his dyslexia by learning to read & makes permanent close friends with his classmates.

The backdrop of the story is his conflict between protesting the Vietnam War & staying loyal to his older brother who is a soldier serving in Vietnam. The author cleverly develops a story line allowing him to do both.

Stoked – 1969 is an enjoyable fast read, that allows you to come away with a good feeling & a smile at the end of the last chapter.

By Joel Kessler, CPA


The characters and storyline of the book Stoked – 1969 by author Helene Forst made for an exciting, enjoyable, and informative reading experience. This novel gives the reader great insight into the life of a young person struggling with both the challenges of overcoming a learning disability while coming-of-age during the tumultuous time of the Vietnam War. Having lived through this period in American history, I feel that Stoked – 1969 accurately portrays the political and social issues of the time. I highly recommend this captivating book to adults of any age!

Wendy Rothkopf, Music Teacher – Comsewogue School District


I LOVED this book! Fast paced history lesson taking place during the Vietnam War. This story is about Jake, a 14-year-old boy with problems of his own during a time in our history when Woodstock, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War were all happening. Educational and compelling! This is a book I will probably read again at sometime.

Helene Forst makes it all come alive right before your eyes! A wonderful, fast read. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Peter Gidion, Vice President Promotion/Marketing (retired)


Stoked – 1969 is a great book for all ages. A very insightful way of presenting historic information about a heavy-duty time for America through the eyes of a 14 year old boy. I would highly recommend to all.