Friday, July 10, 2009

41. JOSEF JAEGER - Jere' M. Fishback

As I read more YA books, I wonder, "Where were you when I was a teen - and stuck with Gone With the Wind?"

JOSEF JAEGER is no exception. Based on Hitler's Germany, Josef is a 13-year-old who lives with his uncle after his mother's death. His uncle, Ernst Roehm, is the openly gay chief of the Nazi brown shirts. Through his personal experiences, Josef realizes that he is gay, as well.

After Josef is chosen to play the lead in a propaganda film, he finally feels safe. He loves his work, he loves a Jewish boy, and he loves his life in Berlin. However, he hears rumors that his mother's death was not natural, so he does what he can to find out the truth.

I knew I would like this book due to the historical elements, but I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Rather than using a heavy hand with the stories that we have all read - the deaths, the extermination of Jews, the Nazi power - the author uses Josef as a metaphor for the German people. He is a teenager who is trying to find himself during a time when politics truly meant life or death.

My only gripe was that Josef is portrayed as a 13-year-old. Since I live with one, I felt that some of the experiences would have been more believable in a 15- or 16-year-old. While I kept in mind the cultural and time differences, I still have difficulties. Even the cover drawing looks like a much older boy.

Outside of this, the writing is clean and concise. There are beautiful passages of imagery, like jagged snow peaks "looking like monstrous teeth biting into brilliant sky." Fishback's use of language is poetic at points, like a master brushing paint on a canvas. For the author's sake, I hope this book gets banned because then it will receive the attention it deserves.

4.0 out of 5.0 Summer Beers.


Maggie May said...

I'm going to look for this for my 15 year old son.

Kristin Dodge said...

I would love to hear his thoughts about it.