This past weekend was the anniversary of Kristallnacht: the Night of Broken Glass during World War II, a series of attacks against the Jews, their homes, businesses, and worship places. While we remember with horror Hilter’s vendetta against the Jews, the Holocaust and the millions of Jews who were executed, we need to remember and be thankful for those who helped the Jews and other prisoners, and those who fought all over the world against the Axis powers. In honor of their memory, deaths, and sacrifices, here are two excellent YA works I’ve recently read: The Book Thief and Code Name Verity. The former has been made into a film which premiered last Friday.
In this unusual narrative hosted by Death, Liesel Meminger copes with her losses and powerlessness by stealing books. After her mother is forced to abandon her and her little brother dies, she is adopted by German parents near Munich and suffers from nightmares. Her foster father helps her fear by teaching her to read and write when he discovers her first stolen book. As the war begins and the hardships multiply, Liesel and her family’s fate are put more into jeopardy with the arrival of Max, a young Jewish man whose father saved Liesel’s. They return the debt and stow Max away in secrecy in their basement. They live their lives in careful determination and terror of their rebellion against Hitler’s orders. Despite the suffering and pain, it is Liesel and the comfort of the books that touches Max and later everyone around her. It is a beautiful story of many who sacrifice themselves to save those who would otherwise be condemned, but most of all of a book thief who stole words, her happiness, and gave that happiness to others.
Be warned, this book has quite a lot of cursing, but it is not one to miss out on. You will be crying by the end for a great many reasons. Excellent read. I’m looking forward to the movie!
Another excellent read, Code Name Verity follows a great story of friendship during the war. It begins with a captured spy, the narrator– Verity, who is held in France by the Nazis in hopes that she will reveal British war secrets. To escape torture, she vows she will write about what she knows, which essentially is a story about Maddie, a British female pilot, and her best friend. Since this is a story that is wholly dependent upon important secrets, the reader is led the same as Verity’s Nazi captor and must discover the important plot points for him or herself. Therefore, there’s not much more I can write, except to say that it is brilliant, captivating, and only reveals the beauty of the plot twists and ingenuity of our heroine narrator, Verity, and the strong love between herself and Maddie at the end of the novel.
This book was voted No. 1 of YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten pick for 2013, and deserves the praise. While it isn’t a story strictly about teens, it does concern young adults who are faced with life-altering challenges, pressure, and the great bond of friendship; something teens can relate to. Excellent read!! Her other book is Rose Under Fire, also set during WWII, which I now really want to read!