Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 7, 2018

Book Giveaway: Stoked – 1969 by Helene Forst

Helene Forst has a new book titled, STOKED – 1969. She has offered to give away a book to one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.

“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.” – Kirkus Review


I’ve been teaching for over 44 years, earning two Masters and holding six certifications in the State of New York. I was the former founder and director of The Pioneer School, a private school chartered by the New York State Board of Regents, specifically geared toward teaching students with dyslexia. At the age of ten, it became apparent to me that my grandson, who was extremely bright, wasn’t learning to read or write like his peers. After testing him, I began to work with him four days a week for twelve months, bringing him from a first grade reading level to a sixth grade reading level. On the day that I told him he’d graduated from our one-on-one reading tutorials, he turned to me, gave me the biggest hug, and suggested that I write a story about our time together. Stoked – 1969 is that story set during the turbulent years of the Vietnam War era.

Why I decided to self-publish:

After working with a well-known, professional editor who had edited several YA Newbery Award novelists, I prepared a well-crafted query letter and sent my publishing requests for representation to many agents and publishing houses. Even though this story takes place in 1969, its themes and conflicts are relevant today, thus making it a truly contemporary novel.

I struggled with the idea that Jake’s story wasn’t going to get told. So, after many rejections, I decided to self-publish. Reading Jake’s story can empower kids and their families to make wiser and more informed decisions about their educational experiences, experiences that impact the rest of their lives and how they feel about themselves.

Stoked – 1969 is a story that so many kids and their families can relate to. It speaks to such topics as the broken systems in our educational institutions and in our government, rights under the first amendment to be free to assemble peacefully and of free speech, that a person can accomplish anything if they set their mind to it, the power of love versus the love of power, the importance of family, the idea of never giving up, that you are the author of your own life story, and that it’s never too late to learn how to read. How wonderful to learn, as a young adult, that it’s okay to be comfortable with who you are, and that you don’t need to try to fit in when you were born to stand out..

The conflicts woven within this story move the reader, creating a page turning experience. All five conflicts,  man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. self, man vs. fate, and man vs. nature, are captured in this story. Jake has problems with several characters over the course of the novel; he has difficulties with the educational system, with policies of the governmental shown as he struggles to decide if he can partake in the protest of the Vietnam War. He has problems with natural happenings when he gets caught in a blizzard in the Adirondack Mountains; and to his dismay, fate has been cruel to him because he finds out he has dyslexia, a difficulty that impacts his learning how to read and write, and be a regular kid.

It was a long journey, but my belief in the messages that weave themselves through the plot of Stoked – 1969 compelled me to get this novel into print. I still hope, though, that an agent or a traditional publishing house would republish the novel, because what I have found is that most school librarians order their books from the School Library Journal. This journal does not include self-published books. The Vietnam War is now a part of most 8th grade curriculum throughout the United States as it is now considered historical fiction. Stoked – 1969 is timely; it’s contemporary; it’s simple to read; and it can make a difference in a kid’s life.


Author Helene Forst attended the State University of New York at Stony Brook to study teaching. After marrying her high school sweetheart, she and her husband settled in East Hampton, New York, to raise their two sons. In addition to being a grandmother, teacher, and environmental activist, Forst is also the author of  two Indie published YA novels, The Journey of Hannah Woods and Stoked – 1969.

Thank you Helene for sharing your book and journey with us. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I remember watching it all on the news at dinnertime every evening – war, war protests, and civil rights protests. Also reading and seeing the photos in Look and Life magazines. A turbulent time and tough for a child to decide what is right. All this without even adding that people with disabilities, at that time, were viewed differently by society. Wow! I look forward to reading this. -Vicki


  2. your motivation for writing this book and the themes you have woven through it are very compelling.


  3. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of this book. It looks fantastic!


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