April 18, 2010
Ashes by Kathryn Lasky
Teen Fiction (Historical)
2010 Viking Juvenile
Finished on 4/6/10
Rating: 3.5 (Good)
Berlin, 1932: In many ways thirteen-year-old Gabriella Schramm lives a charmed, carefree life. She loves her parents and her sister, Ulla. She loves her new literature teacher. She loves her family’s summer lake house, next door to Albert Einstein’s. And most of all, Gaby loves books.
But soon she begins losing these things as Hitler unstoppably climbs to power. People Gaby thought she could trust turn out to be Nazis. Many of her friends are fleeing, or, worse, being taken away. And there’s something troubling about Ulla’s boyfriend that Gaby can’t quite figure out. As always, she turns to her books for comfort—but even those are disappearing.
Newbery Honor winner and master of historical fiction Kathryn Lasky once again brings the past to life with this searing portrait of a nation on the brink of war, and a girl whose life is about to change.
I think I should stop looking for another Book Thief and just go ahead and re-read that fantastic novel. Every other young adult book I've read about the Holocaust and World War II pales in comparison. Ashes was, by far, much better than The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, but it still lacked the literary finesse of Markus Zusak's brilliant novel. I enjoyed Gaby's story and read the book in less than 24 hours, and yet the plot felt contrived. Every opportunity to teach the reader a point in history (including placing key figures, such as Goebbels and Einstein within Gaby's world) was utilized. Zusak did the same, but his historical scenes were seamlessly woven into the storyline. Show, don't tell.