Author: John Boyne
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
I probably should have read a little further into the description and the reviews of this novel before I dived right in. Perhaps then, I would not have been quite so blind sided and thus instantly drenched in depression when I realized what this novel was about.
The fact that the book is set in Berlin tipped me off almost immediately. Then, while glancing over the starred reviews on the back of the cover, I saw the mention of Anne Frank's Diary. Well, okay. I knew right then and there I was in for some terrible times ahead.
But Boyne takes an interesting twist to any Holocaust novel I've read (though, I will be the first to admit, I have read very few). Not only is the story told as it follows young Bruno on his move from Berlin to a new house he doesn't like so much that is situated right next to a fence that he doesn't understand, but Bruno is on the opposite side of the fence than you might believe at the beginning.
Bruno spends a good deal of the beginning of the novel complaining about having to move from his five story home in Berlin and away from all his friends he has ever known. He even complains about his older sister, who is - in Bruno's words - a Hopeless Case. In fact, I realize Bruno is nine-years-old, but that boy does like to complain an awful lot.
Then comes the introduction of his new friend, that he meets when he gets sick and tired of being cramped up in the house that he thinks is too small and goes to explore. As an older person who knows a little bit about the time frame the novel is set in, when Bruno starts complaining to his new friend, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same. Good old Bruno, complaining about living in a 3 story house while Shmuel is living in a hut. Good old Bruno, asking Shmuel if he left his jumper by mistake, because it is getting awfully cold and he looks like he is shivering.
Boyne uses Bruno to show the ignorance that a lot of Germans claimed during the Holocaust. Bruno's father servers as the archetype for the dedicated soldier to the fatherland. Bruno's grandmother serves as a symbol to the Germans who has a conscience and knew what they were doing was wrong.
I don't think this novel lived up to the hype (after all, I've heard they've made a movie about it already and whatnot). I found this novel in a bargain bin in the young adult section, and while the subject matter is perhaps aimed for young adults, the writing sure wasn't. I went so far as to label it for the youth age group. The fact that it was a youth book meant a lot of the writing was dumbed down and the children appeared much younger than they were. But I don't want to go as far as to say it was a bad book. Since I haven't read a lot of literature on the subject, it was an interesting point of view for a very dark point in history. I would still give my copy to friends to borrow for a quick read, though I don't recommend they buy it themselves as it is hardly one young adults of my age would likely read more than once.