Synopsis from Goodreads: Thirteen-year-old Gabriella Schramm’s favorite pastime is reading. With Adolf Hitler slowly but unstoppably rising to power, Gaby turns to her books for comfort while the world around her changes dramatically: The streets become filled with soldiers, Gaby’s sister’s boyfriend raises his arm in a heil Hitler salute, and the Schramms’ family friend Albert Einstein flees the country. When Gaby’s beloved books come under attack, she fears she may have to leave behind the fiction – and the life – she has always cherished.
Number of pages: 318
My review: What an incredible novel. Reading about the Holocaust and the time period of World War II and historical fiction really interests me so this book was perfect and fit all three categories.
Even though Gaby and her family are fictional characters they fit real enough that I could imagine a different child in Germany during this time period to go through the same conflicting thoughts and emotions. Gaby wishes to have a happy and perfect life with her family, but with Hitler rising to power this is soon becoming impossible. At just 13, she quickly understands that things are changing in the world that are history in the making and she tries to soak in as much information as possible.
For example, when the adults in her life discuss affairs in which they believe are too young for her to hear, she eavesdrops on them and then builds conclusions on her own. Gaby is an incredibly smart character and I love how she is able to still think for herself in this time of brainwashing and corruption. Her family is not Jewish, but they still hate the Nazis who infiltrate their town and impose rules and laws upon people which they feel are wrong and unjust.
I’ve actually never read a book set during the time of Hitler’s rise to power from the perspective of a non-Jewish girl. It was a very interesting perspective. You can clearly tell the author took a lot of time researching the time period, the events that took place, and the general history during this time.
I also liked how the author implemented a lot of important events that lead to Hitler’s rise as chancellor, such as the Hitler Youth (which I have a personal connection to, since my own grandfather escaped Germany to avoid being put into the Hitler Youth) and the banning of Jews from establishments, the political side of Hitler’s rise, and book burning’s.
The book ended with some book burning’s and it made me think about the symbolic book burning’s that still occur today. Many people agree that this is a dark time in history for literature, but if you think about it, this still happens today! I mean, we have a whole week in the year dedicated to banned books. Isn’t that the same thing? It’s really disgusting how stuff like this still happens.
And within the novel Gaby feels deeply affected by these burning’s because she often turned to the fictional worlds to avoid the harsh realities of her world falling apart around her. There is one particular quote in the book I thoroughly enjoyed; Gaby is at a book burning fire in Opernplatz, and her sister’s (Ulla) boyfriend (Karl) has just “rescued” a book that Gaby’s father had written. Gaby becomes angry because Karl had to do this in secret and only did it to be seen as a good person in Ulla’s eyes, when in reality Karl has burned countless other books, making him a hypocrite. Gaby yells at Karl and Ulla exclaims that Gaby should keep quiet so no one else hears her proclamations and Gaby retorts with: “I’ll say whatever I want. I’m not a book. You can’t burn me!” (pg 304)
Truly, a wonderful act of defiance. And such a wonderful quote. Definitely going down as one of my favorites ever. Makes you wish that more people would stick up for themselves like this.
See you soon!