Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Heart and Bravery: Girl in the Blue Coat Review

Title: Girl in the Blue Coat
Author: Monica Hesse
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Release Date: April 5th, 2016!
Get It: Amazon
*Physical ARC kindly provided by Little Brown/The Novl*

From Goodreads...
An unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible times

The missing girl is Jewish. I need you to find her before the Nazis do. 

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman's frantic plea to find a person--a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

Meticulously researched, intricately plotted, and beautifully written, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice in historical fiction.

My Review!
As soon as I heard of this one, I knew I had to have it. I loooove WWII stories; they are some of my favorites. I don’t know why exactly, except that reliving the war through fiction gives me an insight that history textbooks in school leave out. I can only imagine what it was like living during that time, for different people, so fiction is my view in. I’ve read stories with many characters from different countries during the war, but not one in the Netherlands. Since I don’t remember much from what I learned in school (which wasn’t that great, tbh), much of what I read in WWII books is new to me. And I loved this one, for giving me more insight into parts of the war that seem mostly forgotten, and for endearing me to a girl who will do whatever it takes to survive.

Hanneke just wants to keep her parents, and herself alive. She distances herself from people, convinces herself she doesn’t care what happens to others, so long as her family is safe. And she does what she must to do that, even if it means working in the black market. She is strong and stoic, and she has become the head of the family, which makes her feel older than she is. Yet she is also a little girl who lost the love of her life, and who has been dealing with that grief by acting as if she doesn’t care about anyone else. She even keeps herself apart from her parents, who don’t know what her job REALLY entails. But when she is drawn into a mystery by one of her clients, Hanneke is forced to face her past, her grief. And she is faced with impossible choices that she’s not sure she’s brave enough to make, but she is. She’s so, so brave, and she finally starts to understand that life means nothing without love, without hope, without people who stand by your side and fight with you. Hanneke ends up following the heart that she hardened against pain, to help those who needed it. Her development was wonderful to watch unfold, especially in a time that made people like Hanneke grow up too fast.

But she’s not alone in her crusade to find the girl in the blue coat. Hanneke finds herself involved with a group of young adults who are hiding many secrets. A group of people who are part of the resistance, who have secretly been helping Jewish people. Hanneke, at first, does not want to be dragged into it. But then she sees what’s happening to them; she learns harsh truths about the war. And she believes in what these people are doing, even if she resists for so long. Hanneke has the support and guidance of some new friends, and an old one. Ollie, the older brother of the guy she loved and lost in the war. I thought at first there might be something between them, so I’m glad there wasn’t. I’m glad there wasn’t a romance, and instead there were relationships built upon trust, and hope, and the belief in something so strongly that it binds them together. Hanneke had spent so long pushing people away that letting them in is so hard to do. But through knowing Ollie, Willem, Judith, Sanne, Mina, Mrs. Janssen, etc. Hanneke realizes that love comes in all types of forms, and that it’s worth any kind of sacrifice.

Throughout the book, it’s Hanneke’s journey that takes forefront, but it does not forget about the world around her. Hanneke’s stumble into the resistance opens up her eyes to tragic stories and a truth that the Jewish people are being rounded up to die, not to go to work camps. Though she tries to stay stoic and separate from all of that, her bravery and determination to find the girl in the blue coat does not waver. The story is fast-paced, and I was enthralled by the mystery almost as much as Hanneke was. I needed to know what had happened to this girl, and I wanted so desperately for her to be found alive and well. And it’s an emotional ride from start to finish, because the war had affected everyone, no matter their heritage. Hanneke was still reeling from the death of her soulmate, and still so clouded in grief, but she realized that her story was not the only sad one, and that there were people who needed her help. I loved seeing this girl fight for what was right, even though she had been so adamant that she not get involved in someone else’s problems. And I loved that this book transported me back in time, to a war that has never been forgotten.

The historical details were so spot-on that you can tell the author did her research. I loved learning more about what happened in the Netherlands during WWII. Though perhaps not my favorite that I’ve read in this genre, Girl in the Blue Coat was a truly memorable book that allowed me another glimpse into parts of a war that I never knew about because the history texts were unimaginably mediocre. It was a story about love, and life, and grief, and courage. It was a story about a girl who learned that survival means something different to different people. She was forced to face truths that made her uncertain and scared, but she was brave enough to use her skills and her time to help in whatever way she could. I think that’s the kind of thing that makes WWII stories so wonderful, that courage and heart in harsh times. And Girl in the Blue Coat was a beautiful story to read, indeed.


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