Thursday, February 18, 2021

I am Defiance: A Novel of WWII

Walsh, Jenni L. I am Defiance: A Novel of WWII
February 2nd 2021 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Brigitte enjoys her League of German Girls meetings because they get her out of the house, where she lives with her father and her older sister Angelika. As the Nazis assert more and more control over their town of Munich, the family is wary of sharing any information with anyone. After an incident where another girl has a copy of a book Helen Keller, which is banned, Brigitte knows she can trust no one. This includes her best friend, Marianne, whose home is bombed and who ends up living with the family when Angelika completes her government service and returns to college. Angelika is hiding a serious secret about her health that if discovered would put her in the Nazis' sites, and makes friends with a girl named Sophie who is actively opposing the regime. Brigitte struggles to maintain the fragile facade of normalcy even as her family disagrees with everything that is going on. I loved this quote from the father (from the uncorrected ARC): "First and foremost, we must think of our family. And that means acting as if we support this regime, even if I do not." Her father starts to make plans to take the family to an uncle in Switzerland, and this becomes even more critical as her sister's friend turns out to be Sophie Scholl of the White Rose movement. How will the family survive when everything around them is in chaos. 
Strengths: This is the book I have been wanting! There were so many German families who didn't quite understand the full extent of the Nazis' evil, and who were just trying to keep themselves safe. This is easier to see given the current circumstances in the world. While Brigitte and her family don't agree with the Nazis, they know that to act against them could end in Angelika's death. The inclusion of the Bund Deutscher M├Ądel is inspired. There have been books about the boys' organization, but this is the first I have seen of the girls'. Putting Angelika into contact with the White Rose movement is also a great addition, and the author's notes about what is and isn't factual are appreciated. Even the cover of this one is just perfect. 
Weaknesses: There were a few problems with the historical context or language issues that bothered me but will bother no one else. Brigitte talks about her father being a botanist who has lots of plants, which led her to think he was a "potanist"; this pun doesn't work in the German. There were also some board games mentioned that might have existed in Germany at the time (Monopoly, Sorry, Lincoln Logs), but which could have been replaced by propaganda based games. I always want more historical details about every day life in my historical fiction books!
What I really think: Really want to buy two copies, and am really excited to be able to offer this one to our 8th graders who do a Holocaust unit. Since I am 75% German (and 25% English, a very common mix in Ohio!), I would have loved imagining myself in Brigitte's place when I was young. When I bike to school in the rain, I may or may not still imagine that I am running important errands for the French Resistance!

Ms. Yingling

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