"In 1943 Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, teenage Hanneke--a 'finder' of black market goods--is tasked with finding a Jewish girl a customer had been hiding, who has seemingly vanished into thin air, and is pulled into a web of resistance activities and secrets as she attempts to solve the mystery and save the missing girl"--
It's 1943 and the Germans have arrived in Amsterdam. They are a constant presence on every street corner. Hanneke is just an ordinary girl who finds and delivers black market goods so that her and her parents can eat and survive another day. On one of her routine deliveries, her customer Mrs. Janssen, asks her to find a Jewish girl, Mirjam, that vanished from the secret room she was staying in. Hanneke realizes the task is very dangerous and at first balks at accepting but the more she learns about her friends, neighbors, Mirjam and herself, she feels like that's the least she could do.
All I can say is anytime we think we have it hard today, we need to remember what those who lived during World War II went through! This was a very moving and powerful story and will make you appreciate the freedoms that we enjoy today.
The story is part historical fiction but it's also a locked room mystery which I was thrilled about and enjoyed trying to solve. I didn't though- didn't even come close actually. There were some good twists that will definitely keep you guessing. The only reason I didn't give it a full five stars was because I felt like the ending was rushed. I would have liked to have heard what happened with the rest of the main characters in the story. It was still a great story though and worth the read if you enjoy war stories or mysteries.
A teenage girl who thinks that the German invasion of her country, Holland, is an oppertunity to make money tries to find one girl her age. And the answers she finds are horrific and beautiful, leading to new truths and leading the reader to ask, "What would you do?"
Hanneke Bakker, 18, rides her bicycle around the city trading goods in the black market. Mostly she is asked to find items like sausage and cigarettes, until, as this story begins, one of her clients, Mrs. Janssen, asks her to help find a girl. Mrs. Janssen had been hiding 15-year-old Mirjam Roodveldt in a hidden area behind her pantry, and now Mirjam is missing. Mrs. Janssen begs Hanneke to find Mirjam before the Nazis do.
At first, Hanneke is reluctant. She works hard to protect herself and her family. As she muses, “Finding a missing girl does nothing for me at all.” She is like many of the Dutch, including her mother, who insists, “It’s not our business; there’s nothing we can do.” Hanneke gets pulled in, however, not out of altruism, but because she is intrigued by the mystery of how Mirjam could have gotten out, and where a Jewish girl could have gone.
After Hanneke takes some half-hearted steps to find out where Mirjam went, she is upbraided by Ollie Van de Kamp, the older brother of Hanneke’s dead boyfriend Bas (Sebastiaan). Bas joined the military and got killed during the initial Nazi invasion. Ollie comes to see Hanneke because he is part of the resistance, and Hanneke’s meddling is endangering their operations.
Most of the work of the resistance centers around the Hollandsche Schouwburg, a former theater being used as a deportation center for Amsterdam’s Jews. At the time of this book, some Jews who had not yet been rounded up had access to the theater as part of their association with the Jewish Council, the Nazis’ liaison to communicate their demands to the Jews.
Hanneke, who basically has kept her eyes and heart closed, thinks the Jews were just being sent to “work camps.” She learns the truth about what happens both inside the Holladsche Schouwburg and afterward from Ollie and his friends, as well as about the other crimes the Nazis are seeking to perpetrate. And of course, she learns the truth about Mirjam.
Evaluation: The depth of the author’s research adds a great deal to this “coming of age” story. While Hanneke isn’t a perfect person, she seems quite realistic, and indeed lends credence to the argument that, as the author explains in the afterword, any one of us can be both a hero and a villain at different times, depending on our decisions and the circumstances that drive them. In this way, she helps to shed light on how the non-Jewish Dutch responded to what happened during the Nazi occupation. Book clubs would find much to discuss.
This book was well written and engaging. I didn’t want to put it down and wanted more when it was finished. I will definitely be looking for other books by Hesse. Overall, highly recommended.
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 a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.
Everyday acts of rebellion occur by some of the very brave dutch occupants. Not all citizens are brave, or kind. This is a time when one never knows who is safe to share information with, and who is a traitor.
The author does a credible job of portraying the daily fear the people feel as one by one their Jewish neighbors are killed, or taken by train to death campus. The city is filled with those who help and then, those who squeal.
Grieving for a young boyfriend who never made it back from joining the ranks of those brave people who tried to stop the German occupation, Hanneke has learned how to flirt and how to lie in order to navigate streets where German soldiers carefully watch those who still live.
Hanneke must make a decision to help one of her clients find a young girl who is the only survivor when her family was brutally killed.
History written in YA form is an excellent way for young and older readers to learn of daily life in an occupied country taken over by brutal people who can smile or kill at the flick of a cigarette.
I read this as a buddy read with my Goodreads friend Diane. I could have easily read this in 2 days, maybe 3, maybe 1, but I had a lot more time to read than my buddy did, so I tried to slow myself down. I’ve enjoyed all my buddy reads with her so it was worth it to at least try to stay as in sync as possible. We chat as we read along. When we get a bit ahead of one another it works to do emails with a subject heading that says spoilers through page number/chapter number, and that’s what we did this time.
Exceptionally well-crafted story!!!
I love the main character narrator and her voice. All the characters are as complex and complicated as any real people can be. They felt so real. I liked them so much. The admirable characters all had flaws and the nasty characters all had a good side. Many people made mistakes, with their relationships and what they did or didn’t do. Just like real life! Sometimes it was hard to remember that all the characters were entirely fictional. Of course, real people did similar things as these characters and I’m sure shared their emotions.
The story is about bravery, and about friendship and about love and a lot about guilt and, as I usually feel about people’s guilt about the big things, the guilt was largely unwarranted though understandable. I love how most things were resolved, and I’m glad that they were, but that there wasn’t an overly tidy resolution for everyone and everything.
There are many twists throughout the story, all basically believable, and even with my slight issues about part of the end, they were always cleverly done. I’m not sure what I’d hoped for differently at the end. Overall, I liked even that. I correctly anticipated some things but most things entirely surprised me. Brilliantly done! It could be considered a mystery, as there are many things about which I was constantly guessing and there is a mystery at the heart of the story.
The first chapter of the book gives a good introduction to what the story will be about, and I appreciated that. I was hooked from the start.
This book was addictive and it was hard to come up for air. The end of every chapter made me want to start the next chapter, and the chapters are short. It was always hard to stop reading when I did that.
So, so good! Any reader who likes Holocaust historical fiction and can enjoy what is a young adult book, I can heartily recommend it. This is one of the best in those genres that I’ve read.
It’s very sad and uplifting and exciting and very inspirational. It’s also fun at times and suspenseful most of the time. I got such a great feel for what the different characters were experiencing.
I came close to tears a few times as I read the story, but not nearly as much as when reading the note on historical accuracy and the acknowledgments at the end which were informative and fascinating and very touching. I love its last paragraph and especially the last line. I already knew a lot about Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, but I learned some things
A young woman living in Holland during the Nazi Occupation is forced into smuggling and utilizing the Black Market in order to feed her family and friends. One of her “regulars” asks her to find “the girl in the blue coat” and that is where the mystery begins. Secrets, betrayals, lost friendships, disappearances, dead lovers and danger on all sides makes this a compelling and tense read. Everyday life in an occupied city is made real and horrific.
Although billed as Young Adult, this novel will appeal to anyone interested in WWII and the resistance, especially in Holland.
5 of 5 stars
Hanneke works in the black market where she recycles rations cards and buys items for those willing to pay. It's usually items like meat, lipstick, magazines, etc. So when a customer asks her to find a girl, her automatic reaction is to flee. She runs home and sits and ponders the pros and cons. She knows she shouldn't say yes, but deep down she wants to mend emotional wounds and save a life since she blames herself for taking one.
She finds herself wrapped up in a twisted mystery that throws her on the doorstep of the resistance. It's a dangerous time and in honor to get answers she has to break rules and live on the edge. Each move could end with death, but she has her mind set on finding the girl and she doesn't stop until she does.
Let me start by saying I really enjoyed this book a lot. I love historical YA and I think this one was a perfect addition to the genre. However, there were a few things that held me back from loving it. First I found the plot twist to be very predictable. I knew what happened before it was revealed and I believe others would guess it as well. Second, I felt like many things were just grazed upon. I wanted to dive deeper into the theatre and see more of the intense darkness. Lastly, I wanted closure in other areas. I felt like the mystery got closure, but everything else was left open ended. Elsbeth? Ollie and Willem? I guess I need to keep in mind that there was no possible way to explore each character in depth. I still wanted to though.... and that is a great thing!
Overall, I definitely recommend it to all historical fans that appreciate new takes on a brutal time. Just keep in mind that it's not a love story. It's a story of healing and moving on. A story of sacrifice and hope. A story of bravery during the time of war.
Hanneke is a teenager in WWII Netherlands. She is her family's sole support, finding items on the black market for various clients. Her job has its dangers, and she has learned to lie convincingly to German soldiers in order to deliver packages without being discovered. One of her clients asks her to help her find something unusual: a girl in a blue coat that the old woman had been hiding in her house. The girl has disappeared without a trace, and Hanneke reluctantly agrees to look for her.
The search takes Hanneke to a Jewish school, a cell in the Resistance, a deportation site, and to the homes of those who hide Jews. The tension slowly builds until a surprise twist abruptly takes the story in a new direction. Along with the mystery of the missing girl is the slow unveiling of what happened to Hanneke's boyfriend, whom we know was killed in the first few days when the Dutch army tried to stand up to the German invasion.
I found the plot to be slow, until two-thirds of the way through the book, when an event occurs which seems to be included in part for shock value. After that, I was much less interested in the story and finished it perfunctorily.
I really, really think this book is better if you go into it knowing little about the plot. But it's a great story about friendship (how it can be so fragile at times, and at other times so strong), how difficult it was to live under occupation, about relationships (there is no instalove in this book, yay!), and courage and weakness.
I've read some reviews saying that there should be more diversity in this book, and I'm not sure how Nazi-occupied Holland is supposed to be "diverse" (especially since the Nazis were busily trying to eradicate "diversity" in the lands they controlled; considering that the Dutch Jews, unfortunately, had an extremely high mortality rate [according to the historical notes at the back of the book, nearly 3/4 were killed], and the occupation had been established for three years by the time this story began, I don't really think much more diversity could have been achieved). I saw this story as a young woman's political and social awakening; I never felt like the Jewish characters were placed just to help Hanneke. Judith, Mirjam, and others (I won't go into details due to spoilers) had unique voices and personalities. There's even a LGBTQ character, which was surprising (due to the time period and, well, the Nazis didn't like LGBTQ people any more than they liked Jews) and awesome. And I say this all as a Jew so...I mean, what are you expecting in Nazi-occupied Holland?
This book is making me want to read Code Name Verity, which has been on my TBR pile for a LONG time.
Although the book focuses on Hanneke's journey, there were many different characters with their own stories, each fighting for what they believed was right. This was not just a simple, historical mystery, it is also a story about love and hatred, friends and enemies, grief and guilt, hope and despair. While this might not be the best book I've read, it was a beautifully written story that highlighted the courage and risks ordinary people were willing to take in an effort to save those who were being persecuted because of their race.
The female protagonist of the story is Hanneke, a Dutch teenager, who, instead of shopping and dating like normal her age, is smuggling luxury items for the people of Amsterdam. Up until now, she has only looked for items like cigarettes, perfume, and chocolate for people willing to pay a hefty price. Now, she must find a person, a Jewish girl, before she winds up in the hands of the Nazis.
This book effectively highlights the heroism and selflessness that put a bright spot on such a dark period in our history. Both chilling and heartbreaking, I highly recommend this for historical fiction readers.