My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love WWII history (as much as anyone can use ‘love’ and ‘WWII’ in the same sentence) and I love alternate histories, so this book had me at the blurb:
Germany, 1956. Over ten years since the Nazis won the war. Seventeen-year-old Yael is part of the resistance, and she has just one mission: to kill Hitler. But first she’s got to get close enough to him to do it.
I struggled in the beginning where powerful descriptions masked the action, finding myself having to re-read paragraphs to figure out what I’d missed – but either the descriptions eased back, or I got used to the style – either way the story soon flowed like magic and didn’t let up.
There is a huge chunk of backstory that needs to be told in this story, and Graudin managed to incorporate it seamlessly – rather than overload readers with detail, Graudin used the parallel timeline technique of showing ‘then’ and ‘now’ in alternating chapters, with the two stories combining to make a gripping page-turner and compelling reading.
Even when small amounts of backstory were necessary, she uses minimal words to maximum effect, such as in this example:
In the life before–the life Yael struggled to catch, hold, remember–death had been a shocking thing. A time for tears, a time for rituals and remembering. But when Yael’s mother passed, there was no observing the seven days of shivah. There was no grave to pile high with visitation stones. There was no long, low male voice to recite the Kaddish prayer.
There was only this: Yael’s mother there, then not.
Graudin has an enviable ability to show the passage of time succinctly and effectively (she shows the passing of hours in a sandstorm in a couple of paragraphs), and the two deceptively simple paragraphs in which she conveys the dual identity of one of the characters (Aaron-Klaus) have left a mark on my soul.
This was not only an important story to be told to a whole new generation, it was also a beautiful story. Not only of politics and larger-than-life issues, but of acceptance of one’s own perceived shortcomings or history. Not just about standing up in the face of something wrong in the world, but of being able to look at one’s own reflection. It was moving and emotional, yet light and soft.
And not all puzzles were revealed (why was (view spoiler) And what did happen between (view spoiler)). We may not find out in the sequel, either, but I love that these tiny puzzles still exist – as in life, we don’t always know everything about everyone.
This is one of the best YA novels I’ve read and I will have to add the sequel Blood for Blood to the top of my to-be-read list!
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