A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
“With the sudden rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, are unable to return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens, watching for any sign of escape. Gerta, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city. But one day, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side of the wall, pantomiming a peculiar dance. She concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?”
Wow! Because I enjoyed The False Prince series by Jennifer Nielsen, I was excited to read this historical fiction novel. I hoped that the writing would be just as engaging and addicting as The False Prince series was. I was not disappointed. This book is so great! It is written very well; I love her writing style. It’s engaging, it flows well, it’s so real, and even though it’s a fictional story about a real event that happened long ago, it’s very personal. The characters are well developed and they feel like the next door neighbors you’ve known your whole life. I especially liked Gerta. Her courage is amazing. Fritz too. I loved the father’s personality. I liked Anna for most of the book. What’s is so great about this book is that it is just like real life; there are times when you like the characters and times when you get a little bugged by them. There are times when you are afraid for them, and times when you cheer them on despite the danger. There would be times when I’d be reading and suddenly realize that I’d been holding my breath, for who knows how long, because of the events taking place. I’d be so worried or I guess I felt like I was there with them. This book is fiction, but I swear it must have really happened because it seemed so lifelike. I’m a rule follower. Everyone knows that about me. I often wonder what I would have done if I’d been alive during the American Revolution. Would I have stood up for freedom or would I have followed the rules under English rule no matter the cost? As I read, I found myself thinking about what I would have done in Gerta’s place. I don’t know. I follow rules and I’m not good at taking risks. But I love freedom. I hope I would stand up for freedom. I loved that this book allowed me to see a different side of some characters. I think we often times get caught up in stereotypes and the blame game. We forget that we are each actually real people with real families and struggles, and with real hopes and dreams. A guard may not believe in the cause he guards every day, but he may do it because it keeps his family safe. A mother may not want her family to stay inside the wall, but she stays because at least her children are alive and safe. Do you choose safe and a good job behind a wall guarded by men with guns or do you choose to take a risk for something better, even though it may cost you? I love that this book gets you thinking. It’s written for a middle-grader/YA reader, but it is relevant to adults as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. I think it is a book every child who learns about WWII should read. It is a great way to get these kids away from themselves and thinking about the world around them.
There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy.” There is some minor violence with the way the Soviets treat the people and there are a couple of characters that die.
Rating:PG+ (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy,” but there is some minor violence with harsh treatment of the people and some fighting. It is post WWII Germany, so it is not the happiest of environments.)
Recommendation: 5th and 6th grades and up (A knowledge of WWII and the Berlin Wall would be very helpful. This book will not make a lot of sense if the child does not have that basic knowledge. My daughter is going into fifth grade this year, and I would be comfortable with her reading it after we discuss the prerequisite knowledge. I’m definitely going to have my ninth and eighth grade sons read it.)