As World War I draws to a close in 1918, German citizens are starving and suffering under a repressive regime. Sixteen-year-old Moritz is torn. His father died in the war and his older brother still risks his life in the trenches, but his mother does not support the patriotic cause and attends subversive socialist meetings. While his mother participates in the revolution to sweep away the monarchy, Moritz falls in love with a Jewish girl who also is a socialist. When Moritz’s brother returns home a bitter, maimed war veteran, ready to blame Germany’s defeat on everything but the old order, Moritz must choose between his allegiance to his dangerously radicalized brother and those who usher in the new democracy.I was a bit taken aback when I learned about this novel. It seems when I come across YA novels these days, they are full of vampires, zombies, witches and romance. This is not to offend those of you who read this genre of YA. I personally do not care for these types of books and was actually quite saddened that this seems to be the only books that are offered to young adults. I live about two hours away from a decent-sized bookstore and it seems every time I go in, the young adult table is full of the expected. So I was very happy to hear about this book. I was even happier when I won it off of Goodreads!
The story is of Moritz, a sixteen-year-old German boy/man who is working as a printers apprentice at the Berlin newspaper towards the end of WWI. He sees the effects of war everyday, but is printing about victories that he believes are true. For Moritz, he sees no reason not to believe in the Kaiser and the war even after his father is killed and his little sister succumbs to the realities of war: lack of food, lack of heat, lack of medicine, lack of everything. His older brother, Hans, admired as big brothers are, is off fighting in the trenches.
Moritz's mother and older sister talk negatively about the war and about the Kaiser, and it is bothersome to him. He tries to persuade them into thinking his way, to no avail. Still in awe of his older brother, Moritz joins a gang Hans used to belong to. This gang is able to find provisions that are scarce and they do so in questionable ways. Moritz also lands a few opportunities to write for the Berlin newspaper. He covers protests against the war and against the Kaiser. He is shocked to learn that his mother is not only attending these meetings, but speaking and organizing them. After awhile, we watch Moritz start to question his beliefs after witnessing his mother and the other socialists crying out for the end of the war, after he sees a young child starving while politicians and the rich grow fat with goods that are scarce, and after he meets a young Jewish girl, also a socialist.
Once Moritz starts to question his beliefs, his brother arrives home gruesomely disfigured, full of bitterness and blame--blame towards the wrong people. Moritz sees his entire family, his life, unfold in front of him and has to make some choices that may split their war-torn family apart even more.
At 217 pages, this book is a quick read. And a very intriguing read. I found the beginning a little slow, but it quickly picked up. The history is authentic, and I was able the grasp the severity of war for the civilians left behind. I was able to feel the tension in Germany between the supporters of the war, the Socialists and other political groups. And at the end, I was able to understand that it wasn't really the end, but only the beginning.
I highly recommend this novel, both to young adults and adults alike. I think this would be a wonderful asset to any youngsters 12+ who are studying this time period or have an interest in history.
Here is a trailer for the novel:
|Courtesy of Retronaut|
Title: My Brother's Shadow
Author: Monika Schröder
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Frances Foster Books
Source: Goodreads Giveaway Winner