When I began reading this book, I was not impressed, since it seemed like little more than a slapdash reiteration of the video content, putting on pap...moreWhen I began reading this book, I was not impressed, since it seemed like little more than a slapdash reiteration of the video content, putting on paper what was better expressed onscreen. Not only did the writing lose the humor and charm of the original, but the stream-of-consciousness diary entries were poorly written, leaving my inner editor forever wanting to rephrase thoughts and change punctuation. It was satisfying to think that my journals are better-crafted, and some dark part of me was gratified to think I could write a better novelization than this, but I was still disappointed.
Thankfully, the reading experience did improve. As the book began pulling in unique elements unseen in the videos, the story got more interesting, and either the writing got more grammatically fluent or I became engrossed enough in the story not to care. I greatly enjoyed reading about the events that never got caught on camera, and the different view of the story world was ultimately satisfying.
There is plenty of foul language and unnecessary vulgarity in the story, but I believe the book is considerably cleaner than the video series, and thus I cannot complain too much. The story is worth that nonsense, and I appreciated how deep and thoughtful the diary entries became as characters developed and changed. This is still a wonderful retelling and modernization of Jane Austen's classic, and brilliantly captures the essences of her characters and story.(less)
Because this book is brand new and has an awesome cover, it caught my eye at the library. Truth be told, I looked at this book because I thought it wa...moreBecause this book is brand new and has an awesome cover, it caught my eye at the library. Truth be told, I looked at this book because I thought it was another goofy YA romance, and wanted to be amused by a peek at its absurdities. I read the plot premise, and saw that this was not another bizarre paranormal fantasy, but was historical fiction about a girl growing up in Hitler's shadow in 1930s Munich. Even though I knew nothing about it, the time period and story appealed to me enough that I went out on a limb and checked it out. (Yes, I'm a librarian in the making... My wild side appears when I play Scrabble, and I live on the edge when I check out books without reading reviews first.)
I enjoyed this novel more than I have enjoyed fiction in a long time. It was surprisingly well-written, especially for a debut novel, and had great vocabulary words all throughout, which was one thing that won me over in my cursory glance through the book at the library. The characters are well-drawn and endearing, and instead of idly sitting back to watch the story unfold, I grew truly afraid for them. I read lots of good books, but only occasionally find those which grip me and don't let me go. Several times, I even forgot to breathe, because the danger and risk in this story were so tangible and real.
The imaginative elements in the story were well-done, fitting right into the reality of history. It was exciting to see how much of the story was true, and to learn even more about history through a memorable novel. The author's note in the back gave great information about what was true and what she made up, and she gave book recommendations for further reading, which I will definitely check out. I learned a lot from this book, but never found it dry or boring. This was not a historical treatise, but a grand story pulling in so many true elements that I kept gaining more information about one of my chief interests.
One thing I greatly appreciated was how none of the scenes were superfluous. Especially in YA romance, there tend to be whole sections of the book that seem to have nothing to do with anything, just to fit in more hormonal contemplation, angst, and drama. Here, it was not so. If anything, the romance took a backseat to the plot, slowly developing in a more natural way. Although there are some slightly implausible aspects, overall it was good, and the story unfolded page by page, with no unnecessary parts. Every scene added something to the plot or characters, and there were no dull, irrelevant portions where I started wondering if I should check Facebook. Even when the moment was not riveting, it was all part of the unfolding story, and I was impressed by the good pacing.
The character development was also natural and well-paced, and I was pleased to see that this book avoided two of my main pet peeves: anachronistic thinking and immediate fundamental change.
We've all read those civil war stories where the main character is not only against slavery, but has twenty-first century views on race relations. Authors often put modern sensibilities into the heads of characters immersed in completely different cultures, and despite the fact that no one thought that way until the historical event was hindsight, authors present these characters as the sane ones in a messed-up society. The extremely anachronistic perceptions in such stories cheapen the historical value of a novel, and make the character's idealistic speeches seem quite laughable.
In any genre, you can find characters whose views radically change without sufficient time or provocation. This always grates on me, because no one ever reorients their worldview in a day. Such changes happen over time, and although some significant trauma or major event could cause a sudden turn-around, it is absurd for characters to just change at the whim of an author. Something has to drive the change, and the reader must see it incrementally happening.
This book avoided both pitfalls, presenting the perfect Aryan girl dazzled by Hitler and convinced that he knows what’s best. She was not the person standing up to defend Jews, but just like everyone else, found them repulsive and believed the lies. It was realistic, and her thoughts made sense in the historical context. Then, as she got to know the Jewish reporter who becomes a love interest, her views began to change, but there was no emotional moment of truth. It was a slow process. The plot of the story drove the change forward, each unfolding element bringing her closer to the truth, until her eyes were opened. It was all rational and realistic, and I really enjoyed it.
My one substantial complain about this book, quite simply, is that since I discovered this book a few months after publication, I will have to wait for the rest of the trilogy! (less)