Monday, December 21, 2015

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Twelve-year-old Gerta's father and younger brother go to West Berlin to find a place for the family to live when the Berlin Wall is erected overnight dividing herself, mother, and older brother from them. Her father was involved in Resistance activities making her family under the constant scrutiny of the Stasi police as the war rages for four long years. While on her way to school Gerta sees her father pantomiming a dance on a platform and interprets it as a way to escape. As neighbors and friends turn against each other, Gerta learns who she can and cannot trust.

While I think Jennifer Nielsen is good at building tension, this story fell short for me in many ways. I've read so much on the Holocaust and World War II that much of the plot was predictable. I get frustrated when an obvious answer is available for the protagonist or minor characters and the incident it gets dragged out in order to advance the plot. This is when the plot feels forced and it happens quite a bit. For instance, why wouldn't Gerta go down into the cellar the first time? Why does Fritz doubt the picture when his character has believed Gerta up to that point? Other times the characters would spout platitudes that sounded like someone looking back on the war.  The fear and confusion was not really captured and carried throughout the narration at a steady pace.

Obviously, I liked the book enough to finish it so it does have its moments when it is interesting. I didn't really learn anything new about this time period and was not wowed by any in-depth historical research. The idea that children walking to school couldn't look toward the other side of the wall was an interesting concept. Nielsen does show the intimidation of soldiers. The story is entertaining but doesn't rise to the same levels as other books out there. Read "Echo" by Pam Munoz Ryan as an example of tension and fear during the war.

3 Smileys

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