Published in: 2012
The protagonist: Espen, ages 14-19, a Norwegian boy spying/working against the Nazis.
The gist in 100 words or less: It’s 1940 and the Nazis have invaded Norway. Espen and his friends are determined to continue the resistance movement by smuggling supplies, conveying encrypted messages and running other errands to support the cause. Espen’s family isn’t even fully aware of his activities, and as the war continues Espen begins to realize that he may be in over his head.
Great stuff: World War II historical fiction has been done and done again, but this is a corner of history that I have never read/thought/talked/knew about. The winter imagery is compelling, especially the nighttime scenes. The chapters are short and the characters very likeable.
Meh: The writing. Espen’s naivetë. The lack of any truly jarring moments, although perhaps I am desensitized since I have read and seen so many books and films about the atrocities of this war (and I’m reading Milkweed with my literacy class right now). The end, for some reason, was also underwhelming.
Best quote: “Anger, hatred, bitterness, fear–those are the emotions that drive the Nazis,” Tante Marie said. “That is what has made them the way they are. Don’t be swallowed up into their darkness. Whatever else you do, my boy, move toward the light” (157).
Parent/teacher alert: It’s a sobering topic that could, and should, lead to conversation. One of Espen’s teammates becomes a Nazi. There is some killing but it’s not graphic, just sad and disturbing.
Read it if you liked: Farewell to Manzanar, Milkweed, or WWII historical fiction in general.
Not good for: Those looking for jam-packed action or those who dislike historical fiction. The fact that this book is about a little-known/often-forgotten part of history is its biggest strength, so if that doesn’t interest you, this one’s probably not for you.
What my students think: This one is admittedly not on the classroom shelves yet. I’ll letcha know!