I saw this book everywhere on the internet, people were talking a lot about it. Then finally I found the book in Dutch at Library #4. I decided to try it out (especially since WWII is a topic I am really interested in), and boy, I am so glad I did! Because this was amazing. Now I hear you say, why, if you find it so amazing, did you only rate it a 4 stars? Wellllllllll… that is all to thank to Alfred. Alfred the psychotic, brainwashed, creep. I will talk a bit about him in the review.
We have 4 different POVs. A girl from Lithuania named Joana. She is a nurse and is one of my favourite characters. Then we have a girl from Poland named Emilia. She is my second favourite character though at times I was a bit annoyed with how childish she was. Then we have Florian who is from Pruissia. While the other characters don’t find out much about him at first, we as readers can, thanks to his POV, find out more about him before the characters do.
Then we have Alfred.
Each chapter is pretty short, only 2 or 3 pages each, and often this format doesn’t work out right. So I was a bit worried. Why does it not work? Because often the story just doesn’t get developed right, you can’t connect with the characters. But for some reason it all worked just perfect in this book. Even in the shortness of 2 pages you learned a whole lot about the characters, the story moved on quickly, and more. It was terrific.
I also loved that this book was about something different from most WWII books. I read a whole lot of books about that period (non-fiction and fiction), but generally it is about the resistance, Jewish people, or normal people. Of course this is fantastic, they all deserve to get their story to be told, but it is quite interesting to see a book talk about something different. In this book we see the story as 3 characters (and various side-characters) try to run/flee to safety and hope to get to a big cruise-ship which will bring them to safer havens. About half is about them going to the boat, and the other half is about the boat and all that happens there.
Joana was truly my favourite character. No matter what comes at her she will soldier on. She will help people no matter what. She is fantastic, sweet, but I was also curious about her secret. What is she hiding? It was a bit annoying we didn’t find out until the end, but I did think that moment was the best the author could have picked.
I loved how caring she was. Even in a world divided and torn by war, she will care for people. Emilia, Klaus, Florian. She takes a lot of people under her wings.
Emilia, my second favourite character. I had my suspicions something was up with her, but when we found out I was sad for her, but also happy (back then we didn’t know the truth). I did like her a lot, she was interesting. As the story continued we found more about her, about her life, about her family, about what happened to her during the war. However, at times she was a bit too childish for me. She is 15, but she acted like 11 or 12 at times. What she called Florian for instance, it got a bit too cringey. I am guessing it might have to do with x and y which we find out later, but I still wish she was a bit different.
Still this girl soldiered on through everything, and in the end she showed something amazing, but also terribly sad.
Then we have Florian. I really liked the guy, he was a bit grumpy, and it took me a bit to get used to him, but when I did I just wanted to know about him and his background. The thing he did, it is was brave, but also a bit stupid. He was a great asset though when they had to get aboard the ship and he was really sweet towards Klaus and Emilia (even though he was a bit annoyed with her, logical though). His secret wasn’t that surprising considering certain things, but still it was a interesting touch to it and I felt sorry for Florian.
I also loved the side characters. Well OK, except Sorry-Eva. 😐 Man she was just so mean, so rude, so vile. Saying sorry won’t make things better woman. Just keep your mouth shut. I don’t know if she really truly knew that she was saying rude things, or she just impulsively said them without knowing, but it did get annoying.
Klaus and the older man were really great, though it took me some time to get used to the older man, at first I thought him to be a bit too high and mighty, but in the end I quite liked him.
The story it was all fantastic, the ending heartbreaking. 🙁 I loved that they added an epilogue of x years later, though I would have wished we saw what happened to the other characters as well.
The romance is also quite nicely done. Not too overly there, and no instant love. It was cute to see those 2 grow to each other, start to like each other, start to fall in love. It was so adorable, and it gave the story a bit of a light-hearted touch. Even in all that war, even in that pain, people could still fall in love, still find a bit of happiness. It was a delight.
There was just one thing I hated. Well, thing, person. Alfred. He was a disgusting, horrible, terrible, psychopath brainwashed by all the nazi stuff. 😐 The thing with his Hannelore? I just knew what had happened from the first letter. The name, some other hints.
The letters were just creepy, full of OMG look at me being amazing, while actually I am hiding in the toilet all the time and oh yes did I mention my rash on my hands? His attitude was disgusting, and I just dreaded his POVs. They were the only parts I hated, I dreaded, and that I wanted to just skip, but I just soldiered on. I just kept wishing Alfred would either fall off a ship, or something else gruesome. 😐 Maybe mean, but sorry, the guy just was so terrible. 😐 The way he saw people, the song he kept singing, how he looked at the world. How he thought about himself. Blehhhhhhh!!!!!
But all the other parts of the book were wonderful, I really enjoyed this book, and I will definitely re-read it one day (though I probably will skip the Alfred parts when I do re-read it).
I would highly recommend this book to everyone! Just be warned you might cry, you might want to shout at all the injustice. So bring chocolate and tissues.