Trying to cross to the West, Hannah's mother has been shot to death at the Berlin Wall; for fear she'll he sent to a children's home, Hannah hides her feelings beneath conformity. At the same time, Steffi leaves school in disgust aider five students are expelled for signing a petition. The two teenagers fall in together as a tide of protest is rising; while more friends and teachers go west or drop from sight, the two witness savage police attacks on ever-larger demonstrations. Lutzeier presents a clear picture of East German society: economic scarcities; the ubiquitous, ever-obvious secret police; anti-Semitism; the slanted views of the West. She contrasts to these daily facts of life a common spirit, a steady hope for a better future that manifests itself in unexpected places. Steffi's colorful rebelliousness and Hannah's quiet fears play off one another well; meanwhile, the tension and violence mount until the electrifying, unexpected announcement that ""they've opened the wall"" sends triumphant crowds surging into the streets. The author (whose The Coldest Winter, 1991, effectively dramatized Ireland's potato famine) treats her characters, and the German people, with respect, opening a window to a once-hidden society.