Saturday, April 19, 2014

ARC Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blackman

 416 pages
Expected publication: April 22nd, 2014 
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Rating: 4/5
In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.
Note: Somehow I managed to erase the *very* long review I wrote about this book during scheduling so this is TAKE TWO:

It took me about a month and a half to write a review of Prisoner of Night and Fog after I finished it. I think this is the kind of novel that you need to read without knowing too much about it. I loved the way it developed, how uncomfortable it made me feel, and its unique approach to a very well known figure. I just wasn't sure how to express my feelings without giving anything away. This is what I came up with:

I'm going to be honest. The cover grabbed me from the very beginning. I didn't care about anything else other than this: I needed to have it in my bookshelf. I didn't even read the synopsis before I added it to my TBR. However, everything changed once I read the premise of Prisoner of Night and Fog. From that point on, I couldn't wait to read it immediately. A history fiction about a girl who sees Hitler as an uncle of sorts? A potential romantic connection between her and a "handsome young Jewish reporter"? 

The way I see it, the characters will evoke some pretty strong emotions from you. Blackman is not afraid of writing despicable characters and I love her for that. Gretchen is someone you might not like at the very beginning but you will see yourself in her by the end. I don't want to talk about Gretchen's brother because I want you to have the same experience that I did but I do want to say that you should be prepared for a couple of heart-wrenching and horrifying moments between the siblings. As far as the love interest, Daniel, I liked that he was an important player in Gretchen's development. I don't feel like I know too much about him but I really enjoyed the way his relationship with Gretchen blossomed in a very natural way. 

It is repulsive and uncomfortable to read about a young girl who refers to Hitler as "Uncle Dolf" while he manipulates every aspect of her life. You see his influence on her every movement, her every thought, and it is sickening to see how he molded her into someone who doesn't question his actions and supports him wholeheartedly.  Psychology plays a major role in this novel and there are plenty of passages discussing the mental issues associated with Hitler and Gretchen's brother. While this might not be interesting to everyone, I really loved the way Blackman dissected the mind of the most hated man in history. The psychoanalysis really adds a different layer to the story, one that leaves you with a deeper understanding of the characters and their actions. The only negative I can find in this novel is that I couldn't stay in its world for too long. Prisoner of Night and Fog is one of those novels that drains you emotionally and if you're a sensitive reader it might even overwhelm you to the point where you'll have to walk away from time to time. 

The research that went into this novel is insane. Just in case you're not sure what's fiction and what's based on fact, Blackman includes a note at the end of the novel where she discusses the way she intertwined the two (very intriguing). There's also a works cited page in case you want to learn more about the research that went into writing this novel. I really loved well researched historical novels and as far as I can tell Anne Blackman worked really hard at making sure every fact is represented in the best way possible. Another aspect that I really loved about this novel is the that there are actual German words tossed here and there. I am a sucker for historical novels that incorporate foreign language throughout the text. While this might sound a little bit strange, I love when I can't understand what's being said because it makes me part of the story and I particularly enjoy trying to decipher the meaning of the word or phrase based on the context. What can I say? I'm an Anthropology student. I'm weird like that. :) 

Prisoner of Night and Fog is a thought-provoking novel from a new voice in YA literature. I'm mesmerized that it not only managed to surpass my expectations but it also slipped into my "favorites" shelf on Goodreads. If you like history fiction, particularly if you're a fan of Ruta Sepetys, you'll love this one. I wasn't aware that this novel is part of a series and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. I'm really excited to immerse myself into this world again (and maybe you'll read along with me so we can discuss it? :D)! 
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