**Disclaimer: I was given a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.**
I’d like to begin by thanking The Fantastic Flying Book Club and the publisher for choosing me to be a part of this tour. Please check out the other stops along the tour for other reviews, playlists, and other fun posts about this book and the author, Monica Hesse.
Prize: Win (1) of (2) copies of THEY WENT LEFT by Monica Hesse (US Only)
Starts: 8th April 2020
Ends: 22nd April 2020
Title They Went Left
Author Monica Hesse
Release Date April 7, 2020
Publisher Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Description from Amazon
Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else–her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja–they went left.
Zofia’s last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once.
But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her–or help her rebuild her world.
I really enjoy historical fiction so this book sounded right up my alley. Also, major points for the author’s first name – I always want to support a fellow Monica. That aside, the synopsis of this story really spoke to me. I remember reading Night by Elie Wiesel in middle school and that book has stayed with me for close to 15 years (and I don’t think the emotions it stirred are going anywhere any time soon). The Holocaust is a subject not often touched upon in YA literature and I loved that this book was going to tackle such an emotional topic.
Some Things I Liked
- The chapter headers. I loved that the author literally led the reader through the entire alphabet. I also loved that it wasn’t the english alphabet (it was, but there were more letters). As Zofia remembered more of her story, I enjoyed learning my own alphabet of her life.
- No sugar coating. This book had some dark topics. But, they were the reality of the time period and situation. Monica Hesse did an excellent job of describing the horrors that Zofia and family experienced without making this book too graphic or morbid. She struck a perfect balance between accurate historical representation and writing for her audience, YA readers.
- The romance. Both Dima and Josef represented different aspects of romance, post-war, for Zofia and I loved the way both relationships developed.
- Zofia’s European travels. Once again, I commend the fact that this was not sugar coated in the least. Zofia’s journey was hard, and honestly, awful, in many ways. But, she persevered to find Abek. I really loved her strength of character as well as the descriptions of post-war Europe.
I would really enjoy more stories about these characters. Zofia’s journey in Canada would be a great story as well as her friends in their new home. I’d also like to see more about a certain character, no spoilers, who didn’t get a full ending (but I definitely saw why).
This book was different than anything else I had read this year. It was emotional, raw, and made me think about a time in history that I don’t reflect on often enough. It’s a must read for any fans of historical fiction.
Recommendations for Further Reading
- The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick – if you liked the emotional, historical fiction aspects of this book, definitely try Serena Burdick’s latest release.
- Spectacle and Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok – if you enjoyed the historical fiction aspects of this book but are looking for a bit of magic / fantasy, try this duology.
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/They-Went-Left-Monica-Hesse/9781549131714?ref=grid-view&qid=1584711908355&sr=1-1
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Monica_Hesse_They_Went_Left?id=AKGnDwAAQBAJ&hl=en_US