Song of Freedom, Song of Dreams

Andrews McMeel. Mar. 2024. 304p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781524881139; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781524881122.
Gr 7-10–Set in East Germany during the days leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, this accessible verse novel is told from the perspective of Helena, a 16-year-old pianist who dreams of one day working as a conductor. When her best friend escapes over the border with her family, Helena begins to question the restrictions and surveillance imposed upon the citizens of the German Democratic Republic. Her burgeoning activism is further stoked by her father’s involvement with the freedom movement and by a romantic relationship with Lucas, an idealistic piano student who wants Helena to flee to the West with him. When Helena is approached by the secret police, the Stasi, to inform on Lucas, she is forced to evaluate her loyalties and make decisions that will define her as an artist, daughter, citizen, and friend. Helena’s voice is clear and earnest, and her desires and challenges easy for readers to grasp, although the consequences of Helena’s choices are somewhat anticlimactic at times. Green’s lyrical style features restrained use of imagery, with poetic elements most visibly expressed through line breaks and the positioning of words and phrases for rhythmic and expressive effect. Personification is also employed, with Helena’s first-person narration interspersed with short sections in the voice of St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig; these sections use a pattern poem format, with the lines arranged in a pillar shape to reinforce the notion of collective strength.
VERDICT This verse novel has thematic and stylistic similarities to works by Kip Wilson and will be of interest to those seeking read-alikes, as well as lovers of classical music. It could also support classroom units relating to the German Democratic Republic or political activism.

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