I’d seen this book mentioned on blogs and via Twitter quite a bit before it was nominated for the Edgars, so I was looking forward to reading it. Quite frankly, I find myself with mixed feelings about it.
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Age group: Young Adult
Synopsis: A young Scottish woman is captured by Nazis during World War II. She is tortured and forced to give up confidential information. She does so by writing out her “confession,” which really turns into a story of how she met her best friend. I’d say more, but I’d ruin the story.
Does it pass the “Homeschool Mom Test“? This book is definitely for more mature audiences. The language can be “unsavory.” Most of that is British foul language (“bloody bastard”), but American teens would recognize other swears as well. The story also includes descriptions of prisoner torture that will leave your skin crawling, and male chauvinist characters that remind me I should thank my lucky stars I don’t have to deal with guys like that.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I have mixed emotions about this novel. On the one hand, I really appreciate how thoroughly the author researched the time period and the involvement of female pilots and spies. As a pilot herself and as a woman who has lived in numerous countries, Elizabeth Wein has a wealth of background knowledge to pour into this story.
The problems I had with the book stem mostly from the beginning. I had trouble buying the premise that a Gestapo leader would tolerate a prisoner who wrote out her “confession” by telling every last detail about how she met her best friend. If I as a reader were impatient with the narrator to “get on” with the story already, why wouldn’t the Nazis be impatient with her as well?
In fact, I didn’t really get into the story until about halfway through it, which brings me to something I did like about the book–the second half. I don’t want to give away the story, but at a certain point in the story, you begin to realize that everything is not as it seems. I had my suspicions earlier in the story, but until the other layers of this story started peeling away, I felt frustrated by the lack of movement.
All that being said, I could see this winning the Edgar. World War II stories are always very hot, and this one keeps you guessing in the second half about which characters to trust and which to despise.