Life in the grim shadow of the Berlin Wall is vividly reflected in Kephart’s moving exploration in two voices.
Ada, a nearly 16-year-old graffiti artist, lives in poverty in West Berlin, but Stefan, the 18-year-old boy she loves, lives on the other side of the wall in even more difficult conditions. Their only hope for a future together is if he finds a way to escape, but his grandfather perished in an attempt. Meanwhile, at night, he trains his telescope on the West while she ventures out to paint scenes of great escapes on the wall. A secondary plot arises from Ada’s work at a day care center; little Savas, from an underclass of Turkish immigrants, has disappeared after his mother was abused. Related in a swirling, second-person stream of consciousness that mimics the free-flowing colors of her nighttime art, Ada’s and Stefan’s alternating present-tense narratives offer a point/counterpoint on the need for escape but its daunting peril. Their story is at once compelling and challenging, perhaps limiting this book to an audience of sophisticated readers. The plight of young Savas adds depth, but its tragic outcome is muted by the building suspense of Stefan’s evolving plan.
While this gripping effort captures the full flavor of a trying time in an onerous place, many readers will find it hard going. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)