Monday, April 21, 2014

Early Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author: Anne Blankman (website | twitter)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source/Format: ARC from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review (thank you!)
Expected publication: April 22, 2014 (tomorrow!)
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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.


Review:


Sometimes, you read for enjoyment and to escape. And then sometimes, you read because you know a book is good for you and it's important for you to read it. Prisoner of Night and Fog is definitely one of the latter books. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable - it is, in some parts. But for me, PoNaF was definitely a serious, thriller of a book that you learn from - it wasn't always fun, but I *am* glad I read it.

The plot clicks along pretty quickly - there were a few moments that lagged a bit in the middle but for the most part, the action rose and fell quickly and kept me very compelled. Blankman effortlessly weaves Gretchen's story, her father's death, and her encounters with Hitler and the rest of the top brass in the National Socialist party into the story. That was the most impressive and interesting feat of this book - that I really believed that this could have happened.

For me, this book was driven more by plot than by my interest in the actual characters - Gretchen seemed a very typical YA heroine - a little naive at first, slowly discovering that she's different from everyone around her and she's been doing everything wrong by believing in the National Socialist party (sorry, was that a spoiler? You knew she was going to figure out that the Nazis weren't good people, right?). Daniel, the Jewish reporter who first informs her that her father's death might not be as it seemed, again, seemed like a very typical YA guy - brave, intrepid, and immediately interested in Gretchen. Their love story was solid but not one where I was heavily interested in seeing them together.

That said, I didn't feel that lack of investment in the love story or in the the typical-ness of the main characters as much as it might have done in another book because the secondary characters were numerous and well-drawn. Reinhard, Gretchen's brother, is particularly fascinating, as were Blankman's depictions of those in Hitler's inner circle and Hitler himself. Blankman's Hitler is a man shrouded in secrecy, charismatic and seemingly benevolent, with a lot of quirks that make him an extraordinary character to read. Every encounter Gretchen had with him made me both disgusted and fascinated.

I think the hardest part of this book for me to swallow was that occasionally, I felt like Gretchen made some choices to trust certain people that I immediately thought were not trustworthy. I thought Blankman did a good, but not great job making Gretchen's desire to believe in people authentic and understandable - most of the time, I believed and understood Gretchen's choices. There were just occasional moments, like when Gretchen goes to her best friend to tell her that Hitler isn't what he seems, and Hitler and his associates are in the back room, where I was kind of taken out of the story because it seemed so obvious that Gretchen should know better than to speak to her friend there.

In some ways, though, the fact that I had such an emotional response to a lot of Gretchen's actions (Tiff during reading: "Get out of the room, Gretchen! Run, Gretchen! Look behind you!") is a testament to how invested I was in this story. I stayed up quite late reading the last hundred pages of this book, desperate to find out if Gretchen and Daniel would be okay. It's a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat to the end...or at least until the sequel (don't worry, it's not a cliffhanger)!

Bonuses: 


Historical Psychology: One of the coolest parts of the novels was the way Freudian psychoanalysis was included. Don't stop reading yet - what was cool was the way that Blankman wove Gretchen's family's story into facts we know about Hitler, and how Gretchen is imparted with psychological knowledge. Freud has mostly been debunked now, but it is absolutely fascinating to see psychoanalysis of him and his followers - it's historically accurate and just really, really cool. I'm being so vague here because I don't want to spoil anythign, but trust me, this is one of the things that really set this book apart for me as "not a typical YA novel."

The Final Word


Prisoner of Night and Fog is a well-researched, strongly written portrayal of the early days of Hitler's rise to power, woven very successfully into a YA thriller. Is it compelling? Yes. Is it a book I will want to read over and over? Probably not - a little too harrowing for my liking. But it's definitely a book worth reading and thinking about - it's one that would probably be fantastic in a classroom discussion of Hitler and the Holocaust, and will definitely stay with me for its intriguing portrayal of Hitler.

PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG comes out tomorrow, April 22nd! Will you be picking it up? Are you interested in historical novels or historical YA? How about Hitler and the Holocaust? Is this too academic for you, or did I get you with the thriller tag? =p Let me know in the comments!

Do you want to win PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG or another April 2014 new release? Sign up here!

7 comments:

  1. I have read so many DNF reviews - I am so glad you liked this one! I cannot wait to read it!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings


    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! This sounds like a not-to-be-miss book. Thanks for reviewing <3

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm very intrigued by this book for a while now. Love it when there's been good research put into a book and looks like the character development is good too. Definitely picking this one up soon. Love the covert too.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Glad you ended up enjoying it in the end. I just started this one so I'm not very far in the book. But what I have read so far I've really liked. I'll be sure to sit down and finish this one soon!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a book that I got to read early like you, and I loved it! I can see the things you had problems with were there though. But I do agree with you that it would be a great book for a school discussion. It actually made me eager to watch the World Wars show on the History Channel just recently because of the before World War II info in the story. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This book sounds really interesting. The History with Hitler sounds interesting to read. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I still haven't read this one, but I really want to. I've only ever read this time period through the eyes of male characters.

    ReplyDelete

You're looking so pretty today. Would you like to leave a comment or thought? I read each and every one of my comments, and I'd be so happy to see yours!