Author: Alan Gratz, Ruth & Jack Gruener
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Genre: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, E-Book
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Recommended Reading: AGE 10+
Contains no spoilers
THE GIST: I am simply blown away. What a powerful account of a decade of death. And although this book is technically considered fiction, the stories are based on a real account. I have seen movies about the holocaust, I even spoke at length with an Auschwitz survivor, but I have never been shown that kind of pain through the eyes of a teenage boy. This book doesn’t pull many punches and even though it isn’t gory, it depicts a horrid atrocity with vivid accuracy. There isn’t much light in this deeply dark story, but that is what makes it so real, so authentic. Please encourage your young readers to pick this book up and then read it with them.
SYNOPSIS: Survive. At any cost.
10 concentration camps.
10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.
It’s something no one could imagine surviving.
But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.
As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner — his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.
He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.
Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will — and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?
Based on an astonishing true story.
THE LOWDOWN: This story touched me in a way that no story has before. I can’t say it was for the writing, because although the writing was great, the story overshadowed everything. The tale of a boy who survives unspeakable crimes; crimes against him and humanity, was both touching and horrific. But what really connected with me was the passion. The sixteen year old boys need and drive to stay alive was unstoppable. I don’t know if I could have done it. Overcoming tremendous odds by doing what six million others couldn’t. It made me so incredibly proud to be Jewish.
I am not going to go into a diatribe on how despicable the acts were; you know this (hopefully). Instead, I will focus on the book and how it impacted me and how it will undoubtedly impact a young reader.
The main character Yanek, is a young innocent forced to grow up too quickly. It is told through 1st person POV and with this viewpoint we become a victim of the Third Reich right alongside Yanek. We meet some of the most infamous Nazi’s; Mengele and Goeth, but we don’t see them from a distance, no, we get to experience their horror. We feel the whips, the punches, bullets, and the starvation. The games they play on the Jews, the tormenting and torture, those are directed at us as well. The voice is so strong and yet weak at the same time, weaving in and out of hopelessness and hope, artfully. That is what makes this book so incredibly difficult, but necessary to read. And for as painfully dark as it was, it was also beautiful, because it shows us, what is truly important should never be taken for granted.
I have to admit, this is the first time I have ever cried like a baby while reading. Sure a tear has escaped my eyes from past reads, even a minor sob or two, but this book was so powerful, I actually cried. So hard, my husband felt I needed to be held. I cried from my soul, for my people, for Yanek. I don’t want to write a long article on characterization, or narrative arch’s. Not because I won’t be able to, but because it isn’t necessary. There are some books that need to be read for the story alone and this is one of them. Please purchase and share Prisoner B-3087, because when you tell a story you make it real for the reader, ensuring history will stay where it belongs. In the past.
Received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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