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My Long List of Impossible Things
Cover of My Long List of Impossible Things
My Long List of Impossible Things
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A brilliant historical YA that asks: how do you choose between survival and doing the right thing? The arrival of the Soviet Army in Germany at the end of World War II sends sixteen-year-old Katja and...
A brilliant historical YA that asks: how do you choose between survival and doing the right thing? The arrival of the Soviet Army in Germany at the end of World War II sends sixteen-year-old Katja and...
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  • A brilliant historical YA that asks: how do you choose between survival and doing the right thing?

    The arrival of the Soviet Army in Germany at the end of World War II sends sixteen-year-old Katja and her family into turmoil. The fighting has stopped, but German society is in collapse, resulting in tremendous hardship. With their father gone and few resources available to them, Katja and her sister are forced to flee their home, reassured by their mother that if they can just reach a distant friend in a town far away, things will get better. But their harrowing journey brings danger and violence, and Katja needs to summon all her strength to build a new life, just as she's questioning everything she thought she knew about her country.

    Katja's bravery and defiance help her deal with the emotional and societal upheaval. But how can she stay true to herself and protect the people she loves when each decision has such far-reaching consequences?

    Acclaimed writerMichelle Barker's new novel explores the chaos and destruction of the Second World War from a perspective rarely examined in YA fiction—the implications of the Soviet occupation on a German population grappling with the horrors of Nazism and its aftermath.

About the Author-

  • MICHELLE BARKER is the award-winning author of The House of One Thousand Eyes as well as a poetry chapbook, a YA fantasy novel, and a picture book. Michelle also works as an editor and workshop leader. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 24, 2020
    Barker (The House of One Thousand Eyes) crafts an uneven survival narrative set in 1945 during the post-WWII Soviet occupation of Germany. When Soviet troops cast them from their farmstead, their widowed Mutti insists 16-year-old Katja and 18-year-old Hilde take 10 minutes to gather some belongings before they flee. The intelligent but impulsive narrator Katja must abandon her beloved piano and possibly her dreams of becoming a concert pianist. Barker creates a pervasive sense of danger as the family takes to the road with other German refugees in their own homeland; the loss endemic of war becomes reified for the sisters when soldiers execute Mutti after Katja calls them “savages.” After the duo arrives at the home of distant relatives, they must make themselves essential in order to stay. The narrative explores choices and consequences, but Katja’s consistent recklessness undermines her character arc. Though Barker’s writing frequently lacks the gravitas necessary to sensitively contextualize the hardships of Soviet postwar occupation against the horrors of the Holocaust, the novel succeeds in illuminating an oft-overlooked chapter of history, hopefully spurring readers toward more nuanced exploration. Ages 14–up.

  • School Library Journal

    March 1, 2020

    Gr 9 Up-Sixteen-year-old Katja just wants to be a concert pianist, but it's simply impossible. Living in post-World War II Germany under Russian occupation means that all energy is devoted to surviving. When Katja, her sister Hilde, and their mother are forced to leave their farm, they must rely on the help of distant relatives; but the journey is marked with tragedy and terror. As Katja and Hilde struggle to make themselves indispensable to their relatives, Ilse and Otto, Katja constantly gets into trouble for impulsive actions. The consequences are great as the Russians and Katja's German neighbors are merciless. Throughout this, Katja and Hilde process the guilt of the German people for the actions of the Nazis and try to avoid the punishment of the Russians. Barker explores a difficult side of history, the treatment of German civilians after World War II, without resorting to making her characters stereotypically heroic or villainous. The brutality of life under occupation is not covered up, and rape, assault, and murder are discussed. For readers who enjoy complex explorations of the past, Barker's characters and balance of history with fiction make this book a worthwhile read. VERDICT Recommended for mature readers who enjoyed Monica Hesse's The War Outside and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's Don't Tell the Enemy.-Kaetlyn Phillips, Yorkton, Sask.

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2020
    As World War II comes to a close, a German teen and her sister struggle for survival. It's March 1945. Katja, 16, her older sister, Hilde, and their Mutti live alone on a Pomeranian farm; Papi was killed two years earlier fighting in the German army. Hilde's boyfriend is also a soldier. Katja mourns the loss of her Jewish piano teacher, Herr Goldstein, who moved to Poland three years ago. When advancing Russian soldiers take over their home, the three depart on foot for the fictional town of Fahlhoff to stay with their mother's friends, whom the girls call Aunt Ilse and Uncle Otto. On the long trip there, Russian soldiers shoot and kill Mutti. In Fahlhoff Katja and Hilde struggle to survive under Russian occupation. Katja vandalizes a Russian officer's automobile, setting off a series of deadly consequences. Unfortunately, the novel feels somewhat myopic--Katja seems much less aware of the danger the Goldsteins faced than seems reasonable given the harsh pervasiveness of anti-Semitic rhetoric. She also seems relatively unaffected by losing her father and Germany's defeat, making it difficult to relate to her and muddling her narrative arc. Katja's persistent short-sightedness and flip-flopping emotions leave readers frustrated and bored. For a better treatment of this time period, read Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016). Tone deaf. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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