Orphan Monster Spy

img_20190217_064739img_20190217_064854Sarah is the teenage daughter of a beautiful German Jewess whose husband? boyfriend? made himself scarce years earlier.  As their situation in Nazi Germany becomes ever more precarious, the mother dissolves into an alcoholic, depressed mess.  She rallies finally for a daring escape effort in a stolen car and gets shot in the back of the head, crashing the car and forcing Sarah to make a run for it.  Sarah is reluctantly “saved” by a British spy operating in Germany who sees useful traits in her that might allow him access to a scientist working on an atomic bomb.  Thus she becomes a spy.  The author develops this plot reasonably well to an interesting conclusion, although occasional plot elements strain credulity.

There is a lot of war-related and physical violence.  There is some profanity, the most common being “Jesus Christ” and what I take to be the German word for “goddamned.”  There is a nasty plot feature involving pedophilia.  There is bullying.  There is a reasonably wide range of characters, young and old, noble and not.  The protagonist serves as an example of a young adult who, when pushed, finds it possible to stand up for herself and others.  In the end, however, it is disappointing how she fails one friend.

Despite the author’s efforts to flesh out understanding of Sarah’s background and circumstances, I never could grow to like or sympathize with her.  A few minor characters were more appealing.

Although the story feels complete, after it ends the author does what so many other authors do when he tacks on additional pages explaining why he wrote what he did, the real-life connections behind it,  and pages of thank-you’s.  SAVE THIS FOR YOUR WEBSITES OR INTERVIEWS, AUTHORS:  You break the lingering power of the creative work itself when you do this.  Trust the work to convey your points—you don’t need to spell them out again in ordinary postscripts to make sure your readers “get” them.

The writing style is a bit laborious and the book has nasty undercurrents of amorality and sexual abuse.  While it is classified as Young Adult fiction, I don’t think many young adults will enjoy it.  I wouldn’t spend limited school budget dollars on it.


Categories: Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Depression, Historical Fiction, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Political Activism, Violence

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