Written by Robert Sharenow, The Berlin Boxing Club is the complete package. For those of you who love a good coming of age story mixed with a historical background, this one is for you. Even if you aren’t a fan of boxing, like me, this novel helps to show that such a sport as boxing teaches important lessons and can change lives.
Taking place in Nazi Germany (1934-1939), fictional teenager Karl Stern engages in boxing lessons with real life boxing champion, Max Schmeling, after being beaten up. Despite having Jewish background, Karl doesn’t sport a Jewish appearance, allowing him to find comfort and shelter behind the Berlin Boxing Club’s walls. Before he is discovered to be a Jew, boxing is his source of relief. His mentor and idol, Max, shows Karl what it means to be a proud German citizen while staying away from the political world. Karl gains confidence and strength physically and mentally. He learns how to defend himself and how to win and how to loose. He learns how to be humble and hardworking, all thanks to Max. However, as Max becomes more famous and the face of Germany, Karl looses his faith in Max. Karl wonders if Max is really who he said he was or if Max put on a mask for the entertainment world.
With a boxing future in focus, Karl encounters challenges he never would have expected to come across. Hitler’s reign becomes stronger and wider, polluting areas of Karl’s life such as school, home and boxing–his only escape. Troubles slowly consume the Stern family such as losing their family art gallery and home. Karl’s father is constantly angry and desperate to uphold his family while his mother battles with depression. His little sister also comes of age as she comes to terms with who she is and how Germany has changed. All around him, Karl’s life is like a whirlwind and confusion takes over his mind.
This novel focuses on the growing maturity of a Jewish teenager during the reign of Hitler. It gives a glimpse into life during this time period and showed me that all teenagers experience the same things. We all come of age, we all find adventure in romance, we all face problems and we all learn how to solve them. As a teenager, I believe that The Berlin Boxing Club is an entertaining and eye-opening read.
The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library