Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman (2014)
Suggested age range: 13 and up (Harper Collins, 389 pages)
Rating: 5/5 stars
Source: Personal Copy
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
The Book: Gretchen is living in 1930s Munich—a time of rapid change, uncertainty, and darkness. Though her father is dead and she misses him terribly, Gretchen goes to school and dreams of one day becoming a doctor. She is adored by her “Uncle Dolf”, a close family friend…who just happens to be Hitler. And he is growing in power. It isn’t until Gretchen receives a message from a Jewish reporter about her father’s death that she begins to question all she has been led to believe about Uncle Dolf and what is happening in Germany. What begins as a search for information about what happened to her father turns into a dangerous and risky adventure that will affect Gretchen and her family far more than she thought.
Spirituality in Prisoner of Night and Fog: One reason why I appreciate books set during World War II so much is because of the way these stories often illuminate the simple bravery, compassion, and love found within people. Though there is also the very real juxtaposition of the battle between good and evil in such stories, these books highlight how people make sacrifices for one another, sometimes even for people they don’t know, because it is simply “the right thing to do.” This story expertly depicts how a person might be raised with a particular worldview, but that perspective can either deepen or change as other viewpoints come into focus. Gretchen’s character reflects someone who desires to connect meaningfully with others, and is not afraid to go after what is right.
Who Should Read This Book: If you liked The Book Thief or Code Name Verity or just a good historical novel with intrigue, suspense, and some romance, you should certainly pick up this new release by Blankman. I read this in one afternoon, and was thinking about the book for several days afterwards. What would it have been like to be a family member or close friend of Hitler’s? From the first page, readers will be drawn into an exciting story set within a turbulent and significant time in history.
The Final Word: I loved this book! It was one of my highly anticipated releases by a debut author for 2014, and I was not disappointed. I read the book as part of Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon and I would have read it all in one day, even if I hadn’t participated in the read-a-thon. The pace of the story was perfect, and the development of Gretchen’s character was not too rushed. I was very interested in her as a character—Blankman has created a female protagonist whose story I am anxious to know about when the next installment is released.