A vivid portrait of life under the Communist rule of 1960s Czechoslovakia.
Getting their hands on a bootleg copy of a Beatles single is just one of the small acts of rebellion that Patrik and his friends engage in. They face real reprisal if they're caught painting over the two last letters of a sign that says "Long Live the USSR!" and urinating on a statue of Lenin. At 13, Patrik's feelings for Danika, who lives upstairs, are starting to change, and he wants to be more than friends. Meanwhile, Danika seems more interested in the new boy at school, a party loyalist from Bratislava. Marsden captures the tension of Patrik's adolescent longings with evocative descriptions of the effect that both Danika and the illicit music have on him: "Each tiny glance sets my body humming. The songs themselves set me humming. They get inside me and tear apart all I ever was. They break me free." Patrik and his family live in fear that his father, a psychiatrist who's pressured to declare people "unfit," will himself be arrested before they have a chance to escape to America. The strain of trying to tell which of their neighbors is trustworthy wears on them. Patrik, living on the edge between childhood and adulthood, dares to make a difference.
Inspired by a true story, this easily accessible novel should appeal to teens who, like Patrik, are keen observors of the chaos that surrounds them. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)