Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse is a thoughtful addition to young adult World War II historical fiction. Splendid writing immediately immerses the reader into Hanneke’s world and Germany-occupied Holland. There is a bit of a mystery to the story, but it is ultimately about Hanneke’s quest to find self-forgiveness and to make a small contribution in a world where things no longer make sense. The historical aspects of this novel were first-rate. Although the pacing of the story is not brisk, the narrative is taunt and compelling. This story doesn’t end when the reader thinks it does and ultimately the ending is a little open-ended, lacking neat bows and a dramatic climax; however, that felt consistent with the narrative and the horror of World War II.
There are many other stories that were left untold in this novel, ranging from Hanneke’s black market activities to Mina’s photographic efforts. Perhaps if we are lucky, Ms. Hesse will grace us with more stories focused on the Dutch occupation and resistance.
Review of an electronic Advance Reader’s Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Profanity/Language: 4 religious exclamations; 6 mild obscenities.
Violence/Gore: Several references throughout the book to a teenage character who was killed as soldier; reference to 2,000 Dutch soldiers being killed when Germany invaded; character briefly relates how her husband and some hidden Jews were shot in cold blood; repot of long ago injury on an electric fence that resulted in partial paralysis; characters see another removed forcibly by soldiers with evidence he was beat (bleeding nose, split/swollen eye, etc.); report of Jews being killed in camps and a discussion on the matter; woman slaps a teenage girl; report that men were executed; soldier shoves a man with butt of gun; 2 paragraphs describing the shooting of a teenager in the back of the neck, “blood bursts from her throat”; scene where a body is dressed for burial (not frightening, but solemn and sad); bicycle accident resulting in injury, mention of blood; character sees dried blood that remains on photographs.
Sex/Nudity: Woman says her boyfriend wants her to move in with him even though they are unmarried; character remembers her first kiss with her boyfriend; character recalls kissing her boyfriend “again and again” in a dark corner of the room; character suspects that someone’s boyfriend is really “paying her for what she does in the bedroom”; male and female characters kiss; male character says he loves another male character and that if the Nazis find out they will be treated the same as the Jews.
Mature Subject Matter:
Nazi invasion/occupation, WW II, black market activities, death, war, genocide, discrimination/persecution, Holocaust, homosexuality and Nazi persecution of it.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adult obtains cigarettes through black market; teen recalls smoking cigarettes in the past on a balcony.