All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr’s historical fiction All the Light We Cannot See brings out the tragedies and horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe. Set in France and Germany, Doerr writes about the stories of a young blind girl and orphan boy and how each adapts to survive during World War II.

Marie-Laure loses her eyesight at age six and eventually manages to learn how to cope with her disability. Her father looks after her as she attempts to memorize the streets of her home in Paris so that she can navigate the city independently. Six years later, when Germany invades France, she and her father seek help from an uncle to take refuge, where she spends the majority of the war hidden in the walled city of Saint Malo.

Werner grows up in an orphanage in Germany with his younger sister. They find a radio and fix it, only to be astounded by Werner’s talent with the device. This later grants him a schooling for the brutal Hitler Youth, and is assigned to use his intelligence with radios to track the resistance.

Doerr introduces two very opposite perspectives during the war and demonstrates both the beauty and brutality of living during such a frightening era. He constantly shows how such an obstacle such as blindness should urge one to keep fighting and overcome it. Likewise, he writes how a gift or talent can change one’s life into one of the most powerful groups in history.

On a scale of one through ten, this novel deserves an eight for its beautifully described picture it portrays of World War II. I would recommend this novel to those of 14 years or older for its maturity and historical content.

-Riley W.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive

Wait For Me by Caroline Leech

This book is set during World War II in Scotland. I thought it was a great book, especially considering it is YA Historical Fiction, which is rare. Lorna lives on a farm with her father. A group of German prisoners of war come to the farm to work. As hard as Lorna tries to hate the laboring POWs, specifically a man named Paul, but it doesn’t seem to work.

“Yes, he was quite nice really. For a German.”

As Paul works on the farm longer, Lorna see’s him as he really is: just a person. She starts to bond with him, and as you can probably assume, they start to fall for each other. But it is not predictable and it is not sudden. There is some prejudice from the townspeople involving their relationship, considering that Paul technically IS from the Nazi side.

“I am German, yes, but I am not a Nazi. There is a difference, and one day I hope you understand that.”

As they start to get closer, people see Lorna as a “bad” person as well. But she does try to keep the relationship a bit hidden. Paul has issues of his own as well. He is young, and he has his mother and his sister back home that he desperately wants to see again. But as he is a prisoner of war, he must stay in Scotland

“I am not proud that my country killed many of your people, though please remember, your country has killed many Germans too. But that is war is about. We do not like it, but we must all live with it until it is ended.”

The cool thing about this book is the fact that is was never predictable, especially the ending, which I could have never seen coming. This book was very sweet. And to me the ending was perfect! This novel is more so of the two caught in the war then the war itself, there is not much gore (at least involving the war). It is a vert clean novel so the younger YA audience will most likely enjoy this.

-Skyler N.

Wait for Me by Caroline Leech is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

“Hope is the most treacherous thing the world. It lifts you and lets you plummet. But as long as you’re being lifted, don’t worry about plummeting”  -Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire, written by Elizabeth Wein, is a historical fiction novel about Rose Justice, an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot for the Royal Air Force. She along with other pilots, Maddie, and Felicyta, carry out their duties of delivering airplanes for the RAF.

However, one day, while delivering a Spitfire from Camp Los Angeles in France, to England, Rose encounters a V1-flying bomb, a pilotless plane carrying a bomb, heading towards Paris. She prevents the attack, but it takes her off course over Germany.

After flying over German territory aimlessly for a while, two Luftwaffe pilots spot Rose’s Spitfire and cornered her to follow them inside Germany. Rose is taken in as a political prisoner and sent to Ravensbrück Concentration camp, a place where she would learn to survive the horrors of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

The book is divided into three parts and it is written from Rose’s point-of-view. It is a companion to Code name Verity, but it can be read as a standalone book. I loved the writing style of the author and the characters in this book. Wein did a wonderful job in details and in staying true to most of the historical facts.

Since most of the story is set in where Rose is a prisoner in Ravensbück, there are some parts where it is graphic such as describing the experiments the Rabbits went through in Block 32. There are curse words in this book (more f-words than a PG-13 movie, but less than an R-rated movie), but it’s expected since it’s set during World War II.

If you’re tired reading YA books with romance or you’re not interested in romance, this book might be great for you. There is a little romance, only a tiny bit when Rose was dating Nick before she got arrested and brief instances where Rose would write poems about Nick, but that’s it. I loved that the author focused on the strong friendships Rose made at Ravensbrück instead of her relationship with Nick.

I don’t read historical fiction often, but after doing a quick Google search on ‘YA books without romance’, I discovered this book. It took me a while to read since I recently started reading novels again, but overall a great read that might make you a bit teary-eyed.

-Ash A.

*Note: Recommended reading age: 14+ for mature themes, curse words, graphic/disturbing images, and violence.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Image result for the darkest hour caroline tung richmondI’m normally not a huge fan of historical fiction. Although, I am okay with reading a few alternate histories, but not constantly. Caroline Tung Richmond is also the author of The Only Thing To Fear, about the present day world under Hitler’s control. Even though this book isn’t an alternate history, it is still about World War II.

The year is 1943, in France, and Lucie Blaise is a part of Covert Ops, a group of female spies. They are willing to do anything to take down Hitler. After her older brother dies in combat, Lucie wants to avenge his death and try in any way possible to defeat Hitler. She didn’t want a boring desk job, and wanted to be an actual spy. Even with her training, she is unprepared for the real world. She almost gets caught, but luckily the Nazis barely buy her cover. Also, she didn’t remember her training exactly when she had her job to do, and she almost was fired because of it. I can’t describe what her job was, because it be too much of a spoiler.

This is a really interesting book about female spies in World War II. I felt that the scenes with Dorner could have been written differently, like maybe Lucie could have been starting to fall in love with Dorner, and the book would have been longer as a result. But nothing happened between them, there was no love story for Lucie, and I feel the book would have been more interesting if something did happen. After reading this book, I wondered if some of the events mentioned were true, and reading the Author’s Note explained it. The Operation Zerfall is fiction, but I was shocked to read that the Wunderwaffe program existed.

So if you’re into World War II, spies, or historical fiction, this book is for you! If you like this book, I strongly recommend reading Richmond’s other book, The Only Thing To Fear. This book isn’t mean for younger audiences.

-Rebecca V. 8th grade

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Book Review: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Farewell to Manzanar is Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s personal, non-fiction account of life inside the Japanese internment camps that the US government put in place during World War ΙΙ. Although many Americans acknowledge the injustice that was done to Japanese Americans during the period that they were relocated to camps along the western interior of the US, less Americans understand the full truth of what life was like inside these war relocation camps. In Farewell to Manzanar, Wakatsuki tells the story of her family’s time in Manzanar, their assigned camp, as well as detailing the repercussions that this experience had on her family.

One of the most interesting parts about Wakatsuki’s story is that she puts a great deal of focus on her life pre and post war. She does not talk only about her family’s incarceration, but also of their home before the turmoil of the war. She laces the chapters with memories from before her time in Manzanar. Wakatsuki also taps into the memories of her family in chapters where she is not the narrator. This story is not simply one about war; it also talks about a young girl growing up and discovering her interests in a place far from her home.

-Mirabella S.

 

Farewell to Manzanar is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

 

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

At the suggestion from a comment on this blog, I decided to read The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult. I had high expectations for the novel, as I read and thoroughly enjoyed My Sister’s Keeper. The novel did not disappoint.

The story follows Sage Singer, a baker who has shut herself away from the rest of the world. She goes to a grief group, but outside of that, she hides her face from the rest of the world. Even Adam, with whom she has a complicated relationship, may just be pitying her. And then she meets Josef Weber, a nonagenarian with a lingering German accent who has a mysterious request: For Sage to help Josef kill himself.

Why her? you may ask. They just met… Well, Sage’s family, except for Sage herself, is Jewish. And Josef… he swears he was an SS Officer.

What makes this novel touching is how the characters relate to one another. They each deal with their own internal struggle and it is incredible to watch them grow to trust one another, or to betray the other. I loved that the story was interrupted by an extensive account of a young girl’s experience in concentration camps, because it made the novel feel not only like a moral decision in the present day but relevant to how history proves to repeat itself.

This was one of the greatest stories I have read in a while. I strongly recommend this novel. It deserves a 10 out of 10.

– Leila S., 11th grade

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until a bit after the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the War of the Pacific with Japan. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist. I do think the way it was written was appropriate, though, because it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids, while having to remember the things that happened.

-Aliya A.