While well suited for a YA audience, this eye-catching snapshot of a Hitler Youth lacks strong dialogue.

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Risking Exposure

A teenage photographer finds her courage amid the turmoil of Nazi Germany in this debut historical novel.

Sophie Adler is a typical German girl growing up in 1938. She enjoys participating in Hitler Youth activities and dreams of becoming a professional photographer. But her entire world changes when she contracts polio and ends up permanently disabled. Suddenly she finds herself cut off from her friends and labeled “useless” by the rest of society. To make matters worse, her parents get into trouble for resisting the Nazi government. Sophie is torn between her desire to fit in and be accepted by her friends again, and her longing to be brave like her parents. Either way, her camera becomes her greatest asset. Her troop’s “Scharführer,” Werner, wants to use her photographs to create pro-Nazi propaganda. But her father tells her to “photograph the truth,” and shows her how to use the camera to fight back. Through it all, she learns to live with her disability and still struggles to maintain her friendship with Werner’s sister, Rennie, and deal with her crush on her classmate Erich. Even though the story takes place in a fairly well-researched historical setting, much of it will resonate with modern teens, as many of Sophie’s problems—peer pressure, relationship struggles, and uncertainty about the future—are universal. But the Nazi setting means all those problems have much higher stakes than they would for a teen in, say, modern America. Unfortunately, the tale’s dialogue sometimes fails to sparkle. Sophie and, occasionally, other characters often have long, expository monologues that sound like they belong in a textbook rather than a novel. Sophie’s conversation with Rennie about a former Jewish friend, in particular, would have been better as a narrative flashback than a monologue. Assuming the author doesn’t have a sequel planned, the ending also leaves quite a few questions unanswered.

While well suited for a YA audience, this eye-catching snapshot of a Hitler Youth lacks strong dialogue.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4921-7982-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2016

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LYDDIE

Abandoned by their mother, whose mental stability has been crumbling since her husband went west, Lyddie and her brother Charlie manage alone through a Vermont winter. But in the spring of 1844, without consulting them, the mother apprentices Charlie to a miller and hires Lyddie out to a tavern, where she is little better than a slave. Still, Lyddie is strong and indomitable, and the cook is friendly even if the mistress is cold and stern; Lyddie manages well enough until a run-in with the mistress sends her south to work in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, thus earning a better wage (in a vain hope of saving the family farm), making friends among the other girls enduring the long hours and dangerous conditions, and expanding her understanding of loyalty, generosity, and injustice (she already knows more than most people ever learn about perseverance). Knowing only her own troubled family, Lyddie is unusually reserved, even for a New Englander, With her usual discernment and consummate skill, Paterson depicts her gradually turning toward the warmth of others' kindnesses—Betsy reads Oliver Twist aloud and suggests the ultimate goal of Oberlin College; Diana teaches Lyddie to cope in the mill, setting an example that Lyddie later follows with an Irish girl who is even more naive than she had been; Quaker neighbors offer help and solace that Lyddie at first rejects out of hand. Deftly plotted and rich in incident, a well-researched picture of the period—and a memorable portrait of an untutored but intelligent young woman making her way against fierce odds.

Pub Date: March 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-525-67338-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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FORGOTTEN FIRE

Bagdasarian’s moving story of the little-told horror of the Armenian genocide is based on the recorded account by his great uncle. The narrative follows Vahan Kendarian from age 12 to 16, from a somewhat spoiled and confident school cut-up to a somber and steely young man. He watches as his brothers are shot and his sister takes poison and dies to avoid rape. He is molested himself, and nurses several companions to their deaths. He also builds a sense of his own inner character as he puts on many outward disguises, traveling from one dangerous situation to the next. If the narrative itself seems to wander and stumble through these experiences imparting little sense of direction, it does add to the mood of confusion, despair, and occasional unfounded hope. The lack of contextual material may frustrate some readers (WWI is not mentioned, and the presence of German and Russian military in Turkey not fully explained), but the short foreword does give just enough information to set the scene, and plunges readers, along with Vahan, into a terrifying situation they may not fully comprehend at first. There is very little material available to young readers on this subject. Kerop Bedoukian’s Some of Us Survived (1978) and David Kherdian’s Newbery Honor book The Road from Home (1979) are still in print, but this should find a new and appreciative readership. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7894-2627-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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