A compelling look at Germany’s recent past.

BEYOND THE BLUE BORDER

Two East German teens embark on a grueling swim across the Baltic Sea in search of freedom.

In the late 1980s, Hanna Klein and Andreas Kuschwitz are growing up in the coastal city of Rostock. Hanna is smart and a strong swimmer with a chance to pursue higher education; Andreas is constantly in trouble, never able to conform and behave in school. After they both face disciplinary action for supposed ideological transgressions, they’re sent to work in a diesel engine plant where they are harassed by the workers because of their higher social status. Andreas decides to attempt an escape, and Hanna joins him in a 30-kilometer swim in hopes of reaching the West German island of Fehmarn. With the goal of eventually reaching their friend in Hamburg whose family received official permission to leave the German Democratic Republic, they brave the frigid water, hoping not to get caught or killed. Written by a Rostock native and translated from German, this is a moving story depicting the dreams of escapees fighting for their lives. Hanna’s first-person narration vividly shows the young people’s fears, exhaustion, struggles, pain, and the obstacles they must overcome. However, this storyline is broken up with lighter comedic flashbacks providing background information about their lives prior to their escape; these stories highlight their experiences at school, friendships, relationships with authority figures, conflicting views of socialism, and current events.

A compelling look at Germany’s recent past. (map, glossary) (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62354-177-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Charlesbridge Teen

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2021

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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