Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: Almost Autumn

Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Source: Publisher
Date Read: 1/15/17 to 1/17/17
278 pages
Rating: 1/2

Everything starts this autumn.

It’s October 1942, in Oslo, Norway. Fifteen-year-old Ilse Stern is waiting to meet boy-next-door Hermann Rod for their first date. She was beginning to think he’d never ask her; she’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember.

But Hermann won’t be able to make it tonight. What Ilse doesn’t know is that Hermann is secretly working in the Resistance, helping Norwegian Jews flee the country to escape the Nazis. The work is exhausting and unpredictable, full of late nights and code words and lies to Hermann’s parents, to his boss…to Ilse.

And as life under German occupation becomes even more difficult, particularly for Jewish families like the Sterns, the choices made become more important by the hour: To speak up or to look away? To stay or to flee? To act now or wait one more day?

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

If you don’t know me by now, you’ll see that I will request and review pretty much anything related to WWII. (And if you haven’t noticed the political climate in the US, you’ll know that this is very much needed). Unfortunately, this story ended up being a bit too simple for me. With POVs changing constantly with no warning whatsoever, and a story that did not bring anything new to the table (other than the setting, maybe), Almost Autumn wasn’t my cup of tea.

Almost Autumn starts off with our Jewish main character (yay!) Ilse, being stood up by her long time crush, Hermann. Though this seems devastating at the time, little does she know that the Nazis are out to get her and her family. And although Hermann secretly works for the Resistance, he struggles with his choice about telling Ilse about his job.

Other than the above, there’s nothing much to say about Almost Autumn. With discussion about the inclusion of Jewish main characters in YA, I was delighted to see one featured here (even though it is still in the setting of the Holocaust). But honestly, my delight ended there. Most of my problems stemmed from the writing, which was simple and bland at times. However, as this was translated from Norwegian, I wouldn’t be surprised if some things were lost in translation.

Another thing that bothered me a bit was the number of POVs, and how the story jumped from one character to the next with no warning. On one page, we’re with Hermann and his thoughts about the occupation. On the next, we’re with the next door neighbor, who is debating on whether to resist or not. The closer I got to the end of the book, the more inconsistent it became.

Lastly, each WWII novels I’ve read told a different, unique story. And although Ilse’s story needed to be told, I felt that it wasn’t compelling enough. There wasn’t much depth to the characters, and the plot was as simple as the writing. Overall, I feel like I learned nothing new.

As my first read of 2017, I’m hoping that this will be my only “meh” read. But I did end up finishing my Goodreads Challenge (of one)! So there’s that piece of good news!
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