PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG

“The man she had loved as a father was a fraud.
He kissed the back of her hands and advocated war; he had played with her on the carpet with toy soldiers, and all along he had been planning the extinction of an entire people.”

Rating: PG-13 for intense scenes and language (in the form of racial slurs against Jews- it does take place in Hitler’s Germany), as well as brief romantic themes

Official Summary: In1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.
        Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.
        Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.
        As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

My thoughts: I am in love with this book. I don’t normally like Nazi/WWII/Hitler themed novels, but all I can say about this one is…wow. Blankman reaches into the soul and brings out the most passionate part of you, pulling forward every emotion she intends to with ease- compassion, fear, confusion- you never know what’s going to happen next. From Gretchen’s cold older brother Reinhard to the passion of Daniel Cohen,  the Jew she befriends, to Gretchen herself, every character evokes an intense emotional reaction that leaves your head spinning.

The research that went into this book is incredible, and it shows in the impeccable details you read as Gretchen and Daniel try to find out the truth about her ‘Uncle Dolf’ and what happened to her father.

There is, of course, some things that may not be considered appropriate for younger readers. As Hitler’s ‘golden children’ Gretchen and Reinhard are fully convinced of the status of Jews as ‘subhuman’ and Reinhard and his friends get in many fights, as well as calling the Jews by names that are, well, unsavory. People do get killed, and there are brief description of that, as well as some animals (Reinhard is not a nice boy).

There are some romantic themes. Daniel and Gretchen (SPOILER SPECIFIC ALERT) end up in love, and they do kiss a few times. Hitler also makes a move on Gretchen, but she escapes, and there is talk of him being in love with Geli, his half-niece, as well as another young woman.  (END spoiler alert).

Overall, I would not recommend this for younger readers simply because of the nature of the book (1930’s Germany was not a child-friendly place), but for more mature readers (13+) I give it a standing ovation for the skillful way the author merges fact with fiction.

Questions? Comments? Books you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and I’ll be sure to check it out!

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THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER

‘Thinking something does not make it true.
Wanting something does not make it real.’

Rating: PG-13 for romantic themes and some horror, as well as unexplained elements.

Official Summary:

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.

She’s wrong.

Not exactly clear, am I right? It’s very vague, but you might take a chance on it if you saw it at the library. I took that chance, and here’s what really happens:

A teenage girl, Mara, comes to the realization that she has a terrible special ability. Mara and her family have just moved to Florida in hopes the relocation will help Mara heal from the accidental death of her best friend, Rachel. Continuing deaths, however, make Mara realize that she is at the center of all the strange fatalities and may have even caused the death of her own friend. Noah Shaw, an eccentric and intelligent boy, that Mara meets in Florida, holds his own secret that might help Mara control her own ability if she makes the right choice.

Slightly less vague, but I don’t want to give you too many spoilers.

My thoughts: This is a caution book. The source of Mara’s powers remain unexplained, and the results of it are rather gruesomely described (causes of death are near-horrific, and though well-written, are not suitable for younger readers). The PG-13 is an all-around rating, but primarily for the violence, the graphic pictures Hodkin’s words can paint in your mind. There is also a small amount of swearing (Noah Shaw is a bad, bad boy).

Also to be noted is the romantic themes in this novel- they’re pretty close to the surface and a major point in the character and plot development. That means that there are some…tense moments, but nothing past kissing, which is nice for those of us who don’t appreciate the lax morals thrown at us in most YA novels. However, Noah Shaw has a bad reputation, and it’s commented on several times from girls he’s ‘wronged,’ shall we say. One of these girls is the ‘Queen Bee’ who, (because there always has to be one of these nowadays) totes around a hulking male sidekick who just happens to be her ‘G.B.F’ (Gay Best Friend). Thanks, modern society where a person’s sexuality is a B.F.D (big fat deal). Anyway, that’s not too prominently discussed more than a passing comment by another kid at the school Mara attends, but it’s still there.

The big caution: At one point at the very beginning, during a flashback, there is a discussion of Mara and her friends using a Ouija board, a BIG no-no. There is no further discussion of that later in the story, though. The only other issue that is a caution point is when Mara and Noah attend a seminar where the speaker promises to ‘help find answers.’ She demands answers from him, and he cons $5,000 out of Noah and gives Mara a drink that is supposed to help her, a mysterious liquid. When Mara goes back to confront the man the next day, the shop is gone.

This was a really gripping book, but there are some things you have to take into consideration when deciding whether it would be an appropriate book to read. I don’t want to make decisions for anyone else, only help them to be well-informed.

Questions? Comments? Other books you want to have reviewed? Leave a comment below!