After her eighteenth birthday, Hilde, a former orphan in 1930s Berlin, goes out into the world to discover her place in it. But finding a job is hard, at least until she stumbles into Café Lila, a vibrant cabaret full of expressive customers—and Rosa, the club’s waitress and performer. As the café and all who work there embrace Hilde, and she embraces them in turn, she discovers her voice and her own blossoming feelings for Rosa.
But Berlin is in turmoil. Between the elections, protests in the streets, and the beginning seeds of unrest in Café Lila itself, Hilde will have to decide what’s best for her future . . . and what it means to love a place on the cusp of war.
Kip Wilson is the author of White Rose (2019, Versify), a critically-acclaimed YA novel-in-verse about anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl, and The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin, (2022, Versify), a YA novel-in-verse about Hilde, an aspiring singer at a queer club in Berlin in 1932. Her latest YA novel-in-verse, One Last Shot (Versify, 2023), focuses on photojournalist Gerda Taro, who captured the vibrant hopes of Spanish republican forces fighting fascism during the Spanish Civil War. Kip holds a Ph.D. in German Literature, and is an Associate Editor at Voyage YA and an elementary library assistant.
Queer centered historical fiction?! Don’t mind if I do! I was able to get my hands on an ARC of this and I cannot sing its praises loudly enough.
The book takes place in Berlin in 1932, before Hitler fully comes into power and the queer community is at the end of a period of freedom to meet and be themselves (think Cabaret). It’s written in verse, beautifully captures a sapphic romance, has a cast of queer characters you’ll want to be friends with, and especially in retrospect is a story that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. While there were some anxiety producing parallels to today’s political climate, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
A story of a lesbian working at a Queer bar during the Weimar republic in the early 1930s, and all that could have been before Europe was changed forever. This story in verse was descriptive, hopeful, tragic and gripping, I enjoyed every moment.
This books shows the beautiful vibrant queer and Jewish life that many people were able to celebrate before the Nazis snuffed the beautiful diversity Berlin and many other cities and countries had to offer. I absolutely loved the hope this book had despite knowing what was coming after this book took place, but the beautiful prose writing made for an imagery unlike any other and showed a different side to queer life and history which as a queer woman, I appreciate! Fantastic book!
Probably more like 3.5 stars, but enjoyable and short enough to round up. I didn't know this was a novel in verse when I checked it out, so it took me by surprise when I started reading; however, I quickly settled into the cadence of it, and even though I focused on just reading it as a novel, rather than a poem, I still was able to appreciate the intentional poetry aspects of it. It would be interesting to reread it, focusing on it as a poem to get an even more powerful reading out it. As I read it, though, it was still very moving and while it was all around very predictable, remained an engaging read.
This book really blew me away. A story, told in verse, about Hilde, a young woman finding her voice, her people, and real love in early 1930s Berlin, with the rise of Hitler hanging over the city and its people. There's so much joy and pride in the queer community where Hilde finds herself that the club and the characters brilliantly come to life in Wilson's writing. I couldn't put it down!
3.75 now I loved the political stuff in this especially since we are following a girl who is in love with a girl in the 1930s it's so hard especially back then AND in berlin.. it was a wonderful story. 🖤I'm so glad I read this:)
3 stars. Not particularly unique in terms of the writing itself. For being a story told in poems, I expected the poems themselves to be stronger. The story was not like any I've read before, however, and three cheers for an untold queer historical fiction piece.
A fascinating YA queer historical fiction novel in verse set against the backdrop of 1932 Berlin. 🎙 Hilde, a former orphan, has come of age and needs a job—fast. She snags one as a waitress at Cafe Lila, a club full of people like herself with vibrant personalities and beautiful singing voices. After her first shift a fellow coworker, Rosa, offers Hilde a place to stay since it’s obvious she’s homeless. Over the next few months Hilde fights to keep her spot at the club, while also battling stage fright and her feelings for Rosa. But Berlin is on the cusp of Hitler takeover and when the club is targeted, Rosa and Hilde worry for their safety and those around them. 🎙 What a stunning and beautiful book I loved White Rose by the same author and found this one so enchanting; I read it in one sitting. I was sucked into the history, the characters, and what would happen to Hilde. So beautiful. I just added it to my collection last week and I’m so glad.
CW: homophobia, blood, hate crime, police brutality, abuse, antisemitism, Nazism, parental death (mentioned), hospitalization
I was able to get access to an ARC. This was a fantastic story of the time period between WWI and WWII in Berlin centering queer culture. It is written in verse and although there are few words on each page it reads very visually. I was very impressed with the depth of the story and characters that was conveyed in this format. Although it is set around 1932 there are many haunting parallels to modern day politics in the U.S. I wouldn't normally be drawn to a book in verse but this was so beautifully done and I enjoyed reading it very much!
It’s a quick read, full of figurative language but little emotional pull and cryptic. About two gay young women in early 30s Berlin, one is Jewish. The Afterword, where the author fills in information is most interesting.
A novel in verse that takes place *right before* Hitler and the Nazis fully take over Germany. If you've seen the movie Cabaret, that will give your mind some visuals throughout (and if you haven't, WHY NOT, it's an amazing flick). This was a coming of age story, an awakening story, a figuring out who the hell you are and who you want to be story. It's full of sweet moments, tragic moments, and intense realizations on a personal level, while at the same time it is the story of the Nazi creep overtaking the country, of nationalism becoming jingoism, of patriotism turning fascist and everything that entails (anti-gay, anti-joy, etc.).
I found it very touching, such an easy read (did I mention it's written in verse?). You want to be there to experience their cafe performances, to watch as Hilde figures out how to care about people and get to know them. I *almost* bought this on my Independent Bookstore crawl day, didn't, got it from the library instead (aka I'm an idiot).
This would be a great book for a high school social studies/literature cross over class. (But I probably would not put it in my middle school classroom library. They don't know enough history yet, most of this would just fly over their heads. And believe me, I HAVE TRIED. I have an amazing short story I love to read with them but there's too much WWII / Germany background in it and no matter how much prep you give them, it's not in a sixth grader's wheel house [nor should it be. This is a hard thing as a teacher, you have to teach to where your kids are, and sometimes I definitely think I should be teaching high school because I could go so much further with certain things. Eh.])
I can see from reading other’s reviews that I'm in the majority when I say I did not like this novel. I had an extremely hard time staying interested and invested in it due to the combination of its verse format (the entire novel is done is verse) combined with the length. I love briefer stories in verse form, but I’ve never read a book this long done in verse and it became more and more burdensome to read as the boom continued. I need some sort of narrative flow to enjoy a novel this long and there was no flow to be seen. I’m sure that for some it’s a perfectly lovely novel–it just simply wasn’t for me, which is a shame, because I had been looking forward to reading it very much.
Thanks to NetGalley and Clarion Books for early access to this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. As per personal policy, this review will not be posted on any bookseller or social media sites due to its review rating of 3 stars or lower.
I have always been fascinated by Berlin, reading about it often and once, even exploring it in person. Wilson's take on this historic city is unique and suddenly all too familiar as daily, I watch heart-crushing events unfold on the world's stage. This was a raw, but beautiful story that can't help but give me hope that one day, we'll finally learn the lessons we insist on repeating.
This is a fast-paced, lyrical read that you won't want to miss.
I wrap up my thoughts about this book in this video.
This historical fiction told through poetry details the lives of queer performers at a Berlin night club shortly before the Nazi party took power. The titular character is also Jewish, as are many people we meet along the way, and this book didn't shy away from the brutality of hate.
Everyone should read this. YA historical fiction with queer elements. This book takes place in Weimar Berlin in 1932, on the eve of Nazi control, when cabarets are still flourishing, and some democracy remains, though SA are already terrorizing people.
TBH, growing up Jewish, I don't really feel like I can read a lot more Holocaust narratives, but this exploration of the life of young queer people, some of whom are Jewish, on the edge of the abyss, is really really interesting. Lots of attention to detail, no punches pulled.
I love the actual novels, songs, musicians referenced, and the afterword has a lot of sources the author used. I'm 100% going to check some of them out.
Above all, it is a story of precarious love, between two women, and to a city that no longer exists.
Germany, 1932 An orphan finds work and family at Cafe Lila in beautifully diverse Berlin as the Nazis begin to take control.
Politics, identity, music, and impending danger, coupled with a very Cabaret atmosphere make this a heartbreaking, yet hopeful, read.
I didn’t feel as though the verse brought anything special to the narrative, but I really enjoyed it just the same. The author builds tension as the Nazis come to power, not only for the Jewish supporting characters, but also the primary queer cast of characters. The author’s note was incredibly informative, shedding light on a progressive city on the brink of catastrophic change.
Pros: Well-constructed verse writing elevates the story. It's fun and fast to read. Read like fantasy or YA romance, not historical fiction (my original framework when I started it). The author is skillful at emotionally evocative verse. Independently, some of the "chapters" are 4 star verse compositions.
Also, made me more aware of the historical reality of gay culture prevalence during the Weimar Republic. I wish there had been more exploration of this (see the historical fiction expectation, above).
***Many spoilers in the cons.***
Cons: The plot was obvious from a mile a way - nothing remotely surprised me. Lena's betrayal - saw when she was described as blonde and bitter. Character depth is limited, and provided in the "tell" format when offered. Hilde's good fortune as a lesbian female orphan is head-scratchingly unbelievable even in a fantasy framework -- finding a job almost immediately at a gay night club, a coworker who immediately provides her housing (she has a crush on her and they get together), getting the attention of a record producer the first night she sings and actually completes a song, and her prescient decision to leave Berlin for Paris with her Jewish girlfriend so we get a tidy and sweet ending with only a hit of potential pain (in Tante Esther staying behind).
The year is 1932 in Berlin and now that Hilde is eighteen, she must leave her orphanage and set out on her own. She quickly discovers, however, that finding a job is near impossible in these economically depressed times. But fate intervenes one night when she meets Rosa, who brings Hilde to Café Lila where she meets a cast of characters that soon become her chosen family. As Berlin falls further and further into the authoritarian grip of the Nazis who are scapegoating Jews and the queer community, Hilde along with the employees and patrons of Café Lila continue to remain quietly hopeful and defiant... until trouble comes loudly knocking on their door.
Just as the title suggests, this YA historical fiction in verse by Kip Wilson is dazzling. Berlin is my favorite city on earth, mostly because there has always been a provocative, defiant, avant-garde, and counter-cultural energy about it. That was true in 2004 when I visited for the first time, and it was certainly true when this novel takes place.
But just as this book is a window into 1930s Germany, it's also an alarming mirror to societies, including American society, that allow idealogues and populists to rise to power.
probably the fastest i’ve ever read a book; i started it around 3 and finished at 5:25 (one sitting). the writing style was great and i just couldn’t put it down. i enjoyed this book more than Kip’s debut novel White Rose and i felt like the verse style really worked for the story. also rosa is the queer jewish representation we all needed
It still amazes me how an author, under such tight constraints, can paint the picture so accurately. With a limited use of language and the power of space, Kip Wilson carried me back to the 1930’s where being yourself, whoever you were, was still acceptable, even in the city of Berlin. Although, not a city void of criticism, for there would always be wolves ready to attack, this brief time period gave individuals the opportunity to find their crowd and be embraced. Written in verse, it was an incredible journey where the sights and sounds of Berlin, were at my fingertips.
Through the use of language and space, Hilde’s story was composed on 397-pages, words arranged so strategically that it reads like a work of fiction. Hilde’s gates were finally open as she leaves her controlled world and enters a world where she can find her own niche. She must find employment to begin her new life but with the economy in shambles, Hilde’s options are limited. When Hilde finds Rosa, I think she was able to fully breathe and embrace who she was. This was an emotional read for me as Hilde finally gets to see the world behind her own eyes. 5 stars
This one was packed with sad painful emotions with the hope that was found among people of the same mindset- optimist and shiny and good with a warm heart.
The ending made me cry. its neither sad nor happy From page one we know it's that part of history where hope was lost and the war was on the doors and people treated others like they are better.
Can't say we don't still have ppl who treat others like shit, discrimination is still here, even if we pretend it is not. the world may have become a better place but underneath the surface whatever was there in the past still lingers today. A lot of ppl still suffer from this- the only difference is that the background changes depend on the place on earth the story happens.
A highly recommended book! it may be fiction but we can't deny the historical part of it and the messages it sends to us are so real. A book that can affect us and our emotions and mindset.
this was a splendid, educational and emotional read.
I’ve found that I gravitate towards historically doomed sapphic novels with a found family trope hidden somewhere along the margins. ‘The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin’ was a quick, decent, emotionally stable read - I was not expecting much from it when I picked it up (really, I came for the sapphics) but I have one qualm.
HILDE, DARLING. LENA IS A FUCKING NAZI. YES, SHE HAS A ROUGH FAMILY LIFE, BUT SHE’S A GODDAMN NAZI. SHE WAS GOING TO SELL YOU OUT FROM THE BEGINNING. WHY DID YOU EVEN TRUST HER. This was one of the very stupid, easily avoidable plot points that I despised. Otherwise, everything else was decent; not dazzling, but enough to fill me up for a while.
Young adult novel in verse about a teenage orphan girl released from state care at age 18 in 1932 in Berlin, Germany. She gets a job in a queer women's club and does a little singing, all the while falling in love with her Jewish work colleague Rosa. This is happening as Hitler and his Brown Shirts start to take and shape their power after the 1932 election. I love Kip Wilson's work and will keep reaching for the historical fiction titles about WWII era topics that she publishes. Also reminds me of the Netflix show Babylon Berlin about the same era.
My first Young Adult novel (apart from the graphic novel variety) in some time, Kip Wilson's, "The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin" reminds one that home is not four walls and a roof; it is the people that you love without question, and that return that love in full.
Given my recent historical fiction wheelhouse of "1920's and 1930's glitz and glamour", I was immediately sold on giving Wilson's second novel a try. I did not know it was written in prose until it arrived at the library, but I honestly cannot imagine the book in any other format (except for a graphic novel adaption, of course). The landscapes and interiors of the Café Lila and Rosa's home felt almost familiar, even though I have never been to Berlin, due in part to Wilson's ability to paint a scenario with just the right words so that the tone transcends borders and time. The same goes for the inner and outer dialogue, whether in English or in German.
For fans of glossaries there is one at the back of the book for the German words that sprinkle the pages and tongues of the cast, and for fans of further reading there is a bibliography worth diving into as well.
The final moments readers spend with this novel will be bittersweet, given what travesties lie ahead for Europeans, and what we do not know when it comes to our heroine duo's future. Since the novel is a piece of historical fiction, one would love to see the atrocities to come never take shape, and that all the pain and ugliness of bigotry was silenced by a song.
Set in 1932 before Hitler comes to power in Germany, a novel in verse beautifully written, celebrating the love of two women and the friends that surround them. This was a glimpse into the world of queer folk, who were able to, for a short time, live their lives without worry, without homophobia, without the fear of being persecuted for the way they chose to live. I loved this book, read it in one sitting. Kip Wilson has become a favorite of mine in historical fiction genre.
really sweet and well researched. teenage lesbians in berlin on the eve of the nazi regime, found family and queer nightlife and coming of age in a really thoughtful way. the sparseness of the verse narration served the story well, kip wilson has a deftness with that style that i feel like is rare. it didn’t feel too cheesy or on the nose like a lot of ya verse does to me, and i know the audiobook narrator also played a role in that.
Oh hello, shall I place my five reasons I love this book review for THE MOST DAZZLING GIRL IN BERLIN by @kipwilsonwrites here on Goodreads? Ok/ Thank you to the author and @versifybooks for the ARC! Let’s jump right in:
- I read this YA historical fiction in verse in one day. Didn’t mean to, I swear! I opened it to read the first page and when I looked up I was on page 300. Absolutely captivated me.
- Weimar Republic, Berlin. 1932. A time of glitz and glamour and prosperity right before the Nazi Party took control (CW here for all that entails, including antisemitism and homophobia). What Wilson does so well is her superb use of language; we know everything is about to go horribly wrong but still Hilde has hope and a yearning for love.
- Found family! Found in a queer nightclub! And it’s sapphic! Yep. Hilde is queer and so is this book.
- Music plays a huge part. Hilde is a singer, but is still figuring out who she is and afraid of the stage, of failure—surely a metaphor for coming of age and finding one’s voice when all around you want to stifle it.
- So yeah, I love that the book doesn’t downplay the shift from prosperity to nationalism. Hilde isn’t Jewish, but the people she’s staying with are. As someone who is Jewish but wasn’t raised in the religion, I loved seeing it on the page.
Sapphic historical fiction in verse? I mean, give me more books featuring queer people being queer throughout history and I’ll read it! In fact, if you liked Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, I think you’ll love this too.