Are you one of the approximately 170 patrons in our library district waiting for Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief? Are you among the hundreds of people on the hold list for the DVD, which just came up on the library catalog a few days ago? (I believe I’m 398 on that list–and I thought I was quick!) If so, while you’re waiting check out another award-winning young adult novel that looks at World War II and the Nazi occupation in an original and startling way. Sadly, we have but one copy left in the district. Awarded Great Britain’s Carnegie Medal in 2006 for outstanding writing for children and teens, the novel is Tamar by Mal Peet.
Told across a fifty-year span in alternating narratives, Tamar chronicles the lives of two young Dutch resistance fighters working for the Allied forces during the Nazi occupation of Holland. The book also follows Tamar who, in 1995, is slowly unraveling the puzzle behind her grandfather’s suicide and the mysterious box he left her. A first-rate mystery cloaked as historical fiction, and with a wartime romance and heartbreak that will leave readers breathless, this is a gripping novel that deftly portrays the paranoia and fear of living under Nazi rule. The toll of war and its effects, even generations later, is haunting as Tamar uncovers her grandfather’s secret. And despite foreshadowing, this secret is a stunner once it’s finally revealed. This is an unforgettable book that explores the nature of love, betrayal, and finally, forgiveness.
Readers who enjoy historical war fiction should try Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein or Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aiden Chambers. Like Tamar, these books are rich in atmosphere and have compelling, realistic characters dealing with the devastation of war and its aftermath.