March 6, 2010
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Young Adult Fiction - Historical
2006 David Fickling Books
Finished on 2/26/10
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)
Berlin 1942. When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
When I learned that The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was coming out on DVD, I decided I needed to make time and give it a read since I'm one who likes to read the book before watching the movie. Now that I've finished the book, well, let's just say I'll be skipping the movie.
Over the years I've become quite a fan of historical fiction, particularly that of World War II. As a matter of fact, my current book is set during WWII and is quite engrossing. And, one of my absolute favorite books is The Book Thief, which, like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, focuses on the life of a young German child during the war. However, that's where the similarities end. John Boyne badly missed the mark with his simplistic tale of a young, naive boy (the son of a high-ranking German soldier), living literally next-door to Auschwitz. The story consists of one-dimensional characters, improbable situations, a ridiculous literary device (the usage of puns to describe Auschwitz and the Fuhrer), and a trivialized plot that barely held my interest and which does no credit at all to the weighty matters with which it attempts to deal.
As I read, I began to wonder exactly for whom this book was written. It lacks the sophistication of any teen book I've read in the past few years, and I found myself comparing the reading level to that of The Penderwicks, which was written for young readers. Obviously, this is not appropriate subject matter for a seven- or eight-year-old, unless handled much more carefully and delicately than Boyne manages here. Yet, it reads as if young children, not teens, were the target audience. What we have here is a book aimed at teens but which talks down to its audience.
Final thoughts: Meh. Read The Book Thief instead.