Happy Sunday, guys!
Today, we're reviewing Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse.
This is a beautifully written, but heartbreaking story about the sacrifices that we make in wartime.
However, it's equally a tale about people who are willing to take risks, bear witness and sacrifice, all in the name of making sure that genuine good in the world triumphs.
Published April 5th 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format read: ARC via publisher
Monica Hesse has proven herself to be a bright new talent with her debut novel, and readers will absolutely be asking for more from this rising voice.
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 dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.
Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice.
But The Girl in the Blue Coat delivers in spades. Hesse has crafted a gorgeous, solemn story about Hanneke, a girl who works the black market of Amsterdam for the clients that are willing to pay for whatever goods can be found.
However, when she's asked to find a missing Jewish girl, Hanneke is thrust into a world of the underground resistance, the realities of war and of personal. As she works through this new web, Hanneke also comes to terms with issues of her own past...
What struck me first about The Girl in the Blue Coat, is that this is very much a tale about a ordinary girl who is suddenly asked to become extraordinary. Hanneke is tough - you can't work in the black market if you're not - but it's one thing to find and sell things on the black market, and another to find a missing Jewish girl.
As Hanneke reluctantly delves into her search for the missing Mirjam, Hesse does a beautiful job of showing how circumstances can very much force people to change and grow, and even become extraordinary. Hanneke comes face-to-face with people who risk their lives daily, and begins to see that it's not a futile attempt. Each moment of resistance, each moment of action, leads to a reaction that may result in a positive outcome.
This burgeoning realization dovetails nicely with her own past, and helps Hanneke to ultimately work out some of her issues with losing a loved one to war.
Ultimately, while Hanneke's journey doesn't necessarily work out in a way that she might like, her growth and experiences are a reminder that there are no perfect moments in war. There are only small victories, and Hanneke is willing to accept what she can get.
Through Hanneke's eyes, we see the life-changing choices that individuals are forced to make in the split-moments of indecision and fear caused by conflict, but also the lasting effects of said decisions. Hanneke's story ultimately has elements of a pyrrhic victory, but it's a tribute to the strength of Hesse's writing, that readers end up understanding that this is still very much a victory in the end.
Highly recommend for all readers, full-stop.