Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Hitler

How bad can I be?
I'm just doing what comes naturally
How bad can I be?
I'm just following my destiny
How bad can I be?
I'm just doing what comes naturally
How bad can I be?
How bad can I possibly be?
How bad
How bad can this possibly be?

-The Lorax (Movie)

Hitler was a psychopath. And as any psychopath, great criminal, or generally sick, messed up, wacko person, he's fascinating. In the same way dissecting a dung beetle or frog is fascinating. And puke-inducing. I don't read many books about history, because every time I go for it and pick up a 'historical fiction' book, the writing is dry and brittle, flat, uninteresting, and full of boring dates. Fiction is not supposed to sound like my history textbook. I remember reading - or at least trying to read - the American Girl series about historical characters, and not enjoying it, and then later reading Number The Stars, but that was for school, so it doesn't count anyhow. Historical fiction books that take place in the World Wars, I know, are popular, especially ones dealing with the Holocaust and how the Jews were treated, considering, well, how they were treated. Gives authors a lot of stuff to choose from.

About one month ago, I requested the book Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz from netgalley, and was accepted. Right before that, I'd requested a book with the word 'Alcatraz' as part of the title, and my mind did this little psych thing and connected the two. I was prepared to read a book about a prisoner wrongfully taken to Alcatraz or something similar, and instead, I was met with a story of a Jewish boy in the time of the Nazis. By the time I realized that I was reading a WWII story, I'd already read enough to want to continue. Before I continue, you should keep in mind that I keep away from books like this, and so I don't have an awful lot to compare it to. 

Survive. At any cost.
10 concentration camps.
10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.
It's something no one could imagine surviving.
But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.

As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner -- his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.
He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.
Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will -- and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?
Based on an astonishing true story

When reading a book, especially a historical fiction, I want to be taken to the time and place. I want to know how they talk and what they eat and how they dress and what everything looks like. I want to be transported into the story. Prisoner B-3087 did that to me, and although it could have been better, I enjoyed it. The story is told through the eyes of a young Jewish boy, Yanek, who gets taken by the Nazis to a concentration camp - 10, actually - and what he endured. It is the story of his survival. Based on a true story but slightly fictionalized, it really shows the "grit" of the Holocaust. The book is aimed at young readers, and so the writing is simple and clear, yet doesn't hold back on any of the details (well, it's gory and all that, but not too gory. It's for young readers, after all). I really enjoyed the fact that this book was told from a first person POV, as it gives a more personal feel to the story. When you start reading, everything is thought of in terms. The Nazis, the Jews, the runaways, the Poles. But by less than half way in, it had boiled down to me and that kid. Didn't matter that he was Jewish, that thew were German, all that mattered was that he was good and they were bad. And that, believe me, is a good book. A great book, in fact. I'd give it 4.5/5 stars. When it boiled down to just you and the main character, and everything else is just distractions. While this book didn't leave me in tears, it did leave me quite a bit emotional. Overall, a good, interesting read, and something that will probably soon turn into a middle school library staple. Definitely recommended for younger readers. I'd imagine this would be a very good book to read when studying the Holocaust as well, as it's quite informational.

...and did you see that cover? Simply stunning.