A Night Divided

336p. Scholastic. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545682428.
Gr 5–8—It's August 13, 1961. Young Gerta wakes up to see that the Berlin Wall has been built overnight, dividing not only her city but her family. Her father and brother Dominic went looking for work on the west side of the city and now they cannot return home. Gerta, her mother, and brother Fritz are trapped in East Berlin. Years pass and resentment of Russian oppression and her family's separation make the now 12-year-old more than ready to take a dangerous chance when her father's smuggled clues encourage her to dig a tunnel to freedom. Nielsen, best known for her fantasy novels, proves she is equally skilled at historical fiction in this solidly structured, balanced account of the origins of an infamous historical landmark. Gerta is a sassy, determined heroine with realistic fears and frustrations—like her longing for a banana. Distinct supporting characters each react differently to Russian rule and demonstrate the harrowing choices people made to survive, encouraging readers to consider what they would have done if fate and history had cast them into the story. The novel is also an intriguing history of the Berlin Wall itself, detailing how and why it was built and citizens' first reactions. Opening each chapter is an inspirational quote about freedom and bravery juxtaposed with barbed-wire illustrations; the book's final quote ominously warns "History repeats itself."
VERDICT The novel's strong setting and tense climax will keep readers engrossed and holding their breath until the last page.

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