Like just about everyone I know, I loved Jennifer Nielsen's Ascendence Trilogy. So, I was intrigued when I started hearing about her newest book, which is historical fiction. My fingers were crossed that Nielsen had been able to make historical fiction every bit as exciting and riveting as her fantasy series. And she did!
A Night Divided begins in Berlin in 1961, just as the wall dividing east and west was being built. Gerta, in fact, wakes up one night and hears the start of the wall's construction. Four years later, Gerta, her mother and her oldest brother are stuck in East Berlin, while her father and middle brother are stuck in West Berlin. Gerta's mother doesn't want to rock the boat and is scared to bringing any attention to the family, given that her husband and one son are in the west. Gerta and her oldest brother, Fritz, however, are unwilling to accept the lies and propaganda that they hear everywhere in the east. Together, they plot an incredibly risky and daring escape. It is in the escape plan that I hear Nielsen's "fantasy voice" - the tension mounts incrementally with every sentence and page, until it reaches a point where readers simply can not put the book down.
Historical fiction can sometimes be a hard sell for middle grade readers. What I especially love about this book is that it reads like an action/adventure story, while infusing the reader with the intensity of the Cold War setting. Gerta's voice explains all that readers really need to know about the era, thus it is not necessary to have a ton of background knowledge about eastern Europe.
This would be a great book to read in conjunction with a unit on the Cold War, but it also will stand readily on its own!
Other books I read and enjoyed this week: