Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on April 5th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Goodreads: ★★★★ 1/2
An unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible times
The missing girl is Jewish. I need you to find her before the Nazis do.
Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.
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.
Meticulously researched, intricately plotted, and beautifully written, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice in historical fiction.
I was very excited to receive an advanced copy of Girl in the Blue Coat to review, as I’ve been wanting to read more historical fiction. This novel follows Hanneke, a teenager living in Amsterdam during World War II. Hanneke works in the black market to provide for her family, and one day a client asks if she can help find a missing girl. All Hanneke knows is that the girl wears a blue coat, but for some reason she is drawn to helping find this girl. The book follows the mystery surrounding the girl in the blue coat, and sheds light on what Amsterdam was like during World War II.
I really enjoyed Girl in the Blue Coat. It is a fast-paced novel that is quite easy to read. I do think the writing was a bit straightforward, and that it is at the younger end of young adult, but I otherwise really loved the book. It’s great that the novel is set in Amsterdam, because I didn’t know much about Amersterdam during World War II. I also thought it was interesting that Girl in the Blue Coat is from the perspective of a non-Jewish character, as the book shows a different side of the Holocaust. I especially found it intriguing to learn that people had no idea what was happening to the Jewish people in their communities, except that they were in danger and being deported.
Moreover, I was very impressed with how the book jumps right into the action without any big build-up before the story takes place. I also found it cool how Hesse weaves smaller mysteries into the overarching plot. I not only wanted to find out where the girl in the blue coat was, but what exactly happened to Hanneke’s boyfriend, who we find out passed away right from the start of the novel. The story-within-a-story device works really well in Girl in the Blue Coat. I appreciated how intricately woven the plot is.
The characters in the novel are likable, but I do find that they lacked some development. This is especially true for the side characters. Hanneke, on the other hand, is written well. She has moments where she is an unreliable narrator, but she tells you when she’s lying. It’s up to the reader to figure out what the truth may be, and I found that to be a page-turner.
All in all, I really enjoyed Girl in the Blue Coat. I recommend it for fans of historical fiction, especially if you want a different kind of World War II story. This is also a great young adult story if you like independent female protagonists or a good mystery. It’s overall a fun and quick read, with a good mix of emotion due to the subject matter. Girl in the Blue Coat reminded me why I love historical fiction!
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