Though occasionally convoluted, it is ultimately a poignant, thoughtful work.



When her father is arrested on November 9, 1938 (Kristallnacht), and sent to a concentration camp, 10-year-old Franziska Mangold, raised Protestant though of Jewish ancestry, gets a coveted spot on the Kindertransport, which carries her from Berlin to London, where she is taken in by a kind-hearted Orthodox Jewish family.

Voorhoeve empathetically explores the effects of Ziska's abrupt separation from her home, family and best friend, Rebekka Liebich, with whom she roamed the neighborhood, in this engaging and often moving coming-of-age story, originally published in Germany. In England she has to adjust to a new language, culture, school, religion and family (Dr. and Mrs. Shepard and their 18-year-old son, Gary). She is even given a new name, Frances. Ziska's story is divided into three books: "Survival Plan 1938-1939," "Blackout 1939-1940," in which Frances is evacuated to the country when Germany invades Poland on September 1, 1939, and "Returning Home 1941-1945," in which there is tragedy, danger, romance, the end of the war and complicated reunions. Throughout, the author skillfully weaves in important aspects of the Kinder experience. Ziska tries desperately to find a sponsor for her parents, experiennces confusion over her identity and religious beliefs as she bonds with her adopted family, feels guilt for those left behind, especially Bekka. An ongoing thread about Jewish ritual and law, especially as it relates to fertility, contains some inaccuracies, which is regrettable, given the context. A glossary would have been helpful.

Though occasionally convoluted, it is ultimately a poignant, thoughtful work. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3360-2

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.


A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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