Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published: August 28, 2018
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
Chaya Lindner is a teenager living in Nazi-occupied Poland. Simply being Jewish places her in danger of being killed or sent to the camps. After her little sister is taken away, her younger brother disappears, and her parents all but give up hope, Chaya is determined to make a difference. Using forged papers and her fair features, Chaya becomes a courier and travels between the Jewish ghettos of Poland, smuggling food, papers, and even people.
Soon Chaya joins a resistance cell that runs raids on the Nazis’ supplies. But after a mission goes terribly wrong, Chaya’s network shatters. She is alone and unsure of where to go, until Esther, a member of her cell, finds her and delivers a message that chills Chaya to her core, and sends her on a journey toward an even larger uprising in the works — in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Though the Jewish resistance never had much of a chance against the Nazis, they were determined to save as many lives as possible, and to live — or die — with honor.
This book blew my socks off! I’ve read Nielsen before and enjoyed her books, but this one takes the cake and the icing and the candles and all the presents too! I’ve been reading a lot of Holocaust fiction lately and I had my eye on this book for a while. It was released just last month and I picked it up almost as soon as Amazon delivered it.
At first, I was nervous that I wasn’t going to like Chaya. She seemed to have an air of superiority about her that didn’t suit her. She was quick to acknowledge her own service and sacrifice. That did get much better the further into the book I got. She became believable and realistic with her fear and courage. Esther was more pitiful than anything but it was nice to see her grow and mature throughout the story. The resistance network in Poland was impressive and even though I knew the history and what happened, I found myself hoping that just this once, things would turn out differently. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Jews and other victims of the Holocaust, that something like that would never happen in America because our mindset is completely different from Europeans. I am by no means victim-shaming, I’m simply pointing out that Americans, with our guns and natural rebelliousness, would have put up far more of a fight. This book showed that there were many people who showed that “not all sheep go like lambs to the slaughter.” I loved seeing how people refused to be cowed and exterminated without resisting.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, though technically a failure, is shown to be such a heroic effort in this book. I’ve never studied it in detail, but the people involved in the Uprising were people of courage and hope and I was so inspired by their sacrifices. I also appreciated how Nielsen showed the impact of young people in the resistance. In the face of such evil and the slaughter of their people, even teens took up arms and were willing to sacrifice themselves to save the lives of people they didn’t know. This is another book that every single middle and high school history teacher should have on his or her shelf as required reading. I found myself tearing up at the end and then wanting reread it all over again! I cannot say enough good about this book and I recommend it to everyone, especially any teen!