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YA Review: Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron

Title: The Light in Hidden Places

Author: Sharon Cameron

Year Published: 2015

Category: YA historical fiction
Pages: 320
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map): Poland

Summary (from Amazon): One knock at the door, and Stefania has a choice to make...

It is 1943, and for four years, sixteen-year-old Stefania has been working for the Diamant family in their grocery store in Przemysl, Poland, singing her way into their lives and hearts. She has even made a promise to one of their sons, Izio -- a betrothal they must keep secret since she is Catholic and the Diamants are Jewish.

But everything changes when the German army invades Przemysl. The Diamants are forced into the ghetto, and Stefania is alone in an occupied city, the only one left to care for Helena, her six-year-old sister. And then comes the knock at the door. Izio's brother Max has jumped from the train headed to a death camp. Stefania and Helena make the extraordinary decision to hide Max, and eventually twelve more Jews. Then they must wait, every day, for the next knock at the door, the one that will mean death. When the knock finally comes, it is two Nazi officers, requisitioning Stefania's house for the German army.

With two Nazis below, thirteen hidden Jews above, and a little sister by her side, Stefania has one more excruciating choice to make.

Review: I recently read Bluebird by Sharon Cameron and thought it was really well done. This one is also very good. Sharon Cameron has a knack for taking a devastating true story and weaving it into something a reader far removed from the experience can understand.

The characters in this novel are ones with whom I could empathize, they are desperate, terrified, strong-willed, and brave. Like so many others during WWII, they do what they must in order to survive: trusting when it's scary; fighting back when it could mean death; and falling in love when all seems hopeless.

Hearing the story of the German occupation of Poland from the viewpoint of a Catholic young woman was new for me. I am used to the story of inside the ghetto or the hiding place, but it was interesting to read it from the perspective of the one doing the hiding, the shopping, and the manipulating.

As with Bluebird, there were moments when I thought that all of these events couldn't happen to one group of people and that the author had gone too far. But, that's the beauty of this book and Bluebird: everything is true! At the end of the novel there are photographs of the people and an explanation of how the author met them, her interviews, etc. Amazing.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Children's historical

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