This book is long listed for the Hounslow Teen Read 2017 and is well worth a read.
Jessika Keller lives in England after the second world war. Except we didn’t win the war, we won a negotiated peace with the Germans and now live under their rule like the rest of Europe. Jessika lives in a quiet street with her parents and her sister, except her sister is slightly different to her and her father seems to have a very important job that makes everyone scared of him. She also has an older sister who has already started her training and lives away from home. They don’t get on and she only appears briefly in the book. When Jessika is young, new neighbours move in next door and her father encourages her to make friends with the girl who is the same age; her name is Clementine and she is beautiful.
As they grow older Clem seems to have different ideas about the way the world works. She isn’t an obedient servant of the Reich and decides not to attend Deutsch Madel meetings anymore, and the two girls begin to lose touch after an awkward incident where Jess tries to kiss Clem. Jess then becomes friends with another girl in the group who she initially didn’t like and they begin a secret relationship. Both are aware that they are strictly forbidden from having a love affair as men and women must do their duty to the Fuhrer and produce children (you get a medal if you have five! that was an actual thing in Nazi Germany) and Jess tries to encourage a boy at the youth group to cover it up. In the meantime things are not going well for Clem and Jess needs to make some harsh decisions. She is an accomplished Ice Skater and trains every day; when the girls reach 18 they go away to finish off their skills (not sure where Jess is supposed to be going – some kind of training camp I think) and she only has a few days to save Clem before she goes.
This book is an interesting take on what it may have been like for young people living in Germany between the wars and why so many of them were sucked into the Hitler ideal. The idea that we have a path mapped out for us by the state is pretty scary but, if you are so indoctrinated you may just go along with it like Jess does. She’s not a very strong character and she irritated me, I wanted to shake her sometimes! But, having said that, she is going against everything she has been brought up to believe. The book has a menacing quality about it which, I suppose is what it must have been like then. Who do you trust not to betray you; and Jess suffers the worst betrayal of all. It has some similarities to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in that, if you didn’t know a bit of the history some bits might pass you by.