Tuesday, October 18, 2016
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa- Book Review
Super simple plot summary of "The German Girl" - The narrative in this book shifts between the story of Hannah and the story of Anna. Hannah is an 11 year old German girl who boards the SS St. Louis with her family. They are hoping to flee to Cuba on the ship in order to escape religious persecution in Germany during WWII. Anna is an 11 year old American girl whose father died before she was born in 9/11. Hannah and Anna are connected by Anna's father, whom Hannah raised. Anna and her mother receive a package from Hannah after which they embark on an adventure to Cuba to learn more about Anna's deceased father.
What I Didn't Like
I would only gave this book two stars and I think there were a couple of reasons why. First of all there were too many big events in one book. Not only did this book attempt to cover the experience of living in Berlin during the beginning of World War II, it also covered the S.S. St. Louis, 9/11, and a decade of political unrest and revolution in Cuba during the 1960s. The author explored each of these events to show the parallels and repetition of history. Practically, that's ALOT for one book, and as a result, none of the events felt as though they were fully explored.
The characters in "The German Girl" were difficult to read and didn't feel particularly genuine. This in part might be due to the fact that the book is written by an adult male- and much of the book is the internal monologues of two 11-12 year old girls. I imagine as a writer that is an especially large challenge. Because, really, the emotions and situations that the characters are in are *huge* - I should be emotionally distraught reading about Hannah's experiences on the SS St. Louis, but for me the emotions just weren't there, unfortunately.
Additionally, I'm not a fan of YA historical fiction and while it was not listed as such on NetGalley, I feel like " The German Girl" reads like a YA book. It seems as though other readers are confused about the genre as well, because it was listed under several different genres on Goodreads.
What I Liked
I have not seen very many fiction books about the SS St. Louis, so what initially drew me to this book was the unique story. It is heartbreaking and infuriating to imagine what the individuals on that ship experienced as they escaped Germany only to be turned away from Cuba, and then many other countries as well. It is an important part of history and I was excited at the opportunity to learn more about it from this book. While I had some big issues with this book overall I do feel like I learned a lot about the SS St. Louis, and this book has definitely motivated me to learn more.
This book also features a cast of unique character. I was especially interested in Hannah's parents. Typically, in a book about the Holocaust the parents are portrayed as the bedrock of the family. They are moral compasses who protect their children as best as possible from the depravity of that terrible time. "The German Girl" parents however are flawed individuals. Hannah's father is a professor who is gone for long chunks of the book. After a lengthy prison sentence, he boards the SS St. Louis with Hannah and her mother, but then is gone frequently again because of meetings with the captain - presumably to discuss their difficulty docking in Havana. Hannah's mother appears to be suffering from a mental illness, possibly depression or a bipolar disorder. And so, Hannah is left to fend for herself emotionally in ways that you don't usually see in World War II fictional accounts, especially YA historical fiction.
Should You Read This Book?
For me this book is one to pass. Although, if you know a YA reader who is interested in the St.Louis, they might enjoy this book.
Have you read "The German Girl"? Let me know your thoughts about the book below! Or, let me know what your favorite YA book about World War II is! Interested in reading "The German Girl"? Click the link to the left to find the book at your local library or click below to view the book on Amazon through my affiliate link.
Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing me an advanced copy of this book.
While the book was free, as a girl who is all about the library ( where books are always “free”) - know that all opinions are mine.