Friday, January 22, 2016

Review: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

Title: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain
Author: John Boyne
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA historical fiction
Pages: 272
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map): France and Austria

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book):
 Pierrot knows nothing about the Nazis when he is sent to live with his aunt in a mysterious house at the top of the mountains. But this is no ordinary house, and this is no ordinary time. It is 1935, and this is the Berghof.

Taken under Hitler's wing, Pierrot is swept up into a dangerous new world of power, secrets, and betrayal--and ultimately, he must choose where his loyalties will lie.

Review: When we saw this book in a bookshop in Muscat, Oman, my daughter and I knew we wanted to buy it right away. We both really liked reading Boyne's earlier book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and we figured this one would be good as well. We were right.

Like Pajamas, I liked the second half of this book better than the first, but I think that must be Boyne's style: set the scene, build the story and characters in the first half, then WHAM! Hit the reader with the tough stuff in the second half.

There are a myriad of characters in this novel, some real and some imagined. Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, and Eva Braun all make appearances as do servants at Berghof (Hitler's get-away home), Pierrot, his friends, and family. While many of the characters are only fleeting, we get to care about a number of characters that help us to see how Pierrot changes as the book progresses. It's funny, I didn't ever feel empathy for Pierrot once he arrived on the mountain and only a bit before that, but he is the main character and I grew to hate him and all he represented.

The story is well done and I can definitely see Pierrot's transition as realistic. The author also did a good job with blending fiction and historical fact to make an interesting novel. It's an easy read, but will get teenagers thinking about peer pressure and the influence of "belonging."

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