Book Review: Refugee by Alan Gratz

Dear Bookworms,

This week I have another Alan Gratz novel and if I wasn't already before, I am officially, 100%, hooked for life on anything Gratz publishes, ever. 

By Alan Gratz

Refugee tells the tales of three children throughout history, fleeing their dangerous and warn torn countries in the hopes of finding safety elsewhere. Josef is fleeing Nazi occupied Berlin in 1939 with his parents and young sister aboard the St. Louis bound for Cuba. Mahmoud is on the run from present day war-torn Aleppo with his parents, brother, and infant sister. Isabel boards a rickety homemade boat in the 90's with her parents, neighbors, and grandfather in the hopes of reaching el norte, Miami and life of freedom and possibility. Each child faces obstacles and setbacks throughout their journey. Devastating loss and unimaginably tough choices  are forced upon these children, these families. 

While not biographical accounts, they are based in fact and are bits and pieces of real stories, of real people, fleeing unimaginable horrors in the search for a better life, all them hard hitting and raw.

It was amazing how relatable each character was. While spanning different eras, different cultures, different struggles, their humanity bound them together. They each had hopes and dreams for a better life, love for their families, unimaginable courage in the face of adversity. They once had friends, played games, watched TV, played with toys and yet faced such terrifying obstacles to living the simple, happy lives they were meant to live.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was how each story was in some small part connected. It really highlighted the point that we are all, as a human race, connected in some way or fashion and the choices of our actions ripple throughout not only our life, but generations of lives. It is really quite powerful to sit back and look at a novel which spans so many decades and generations.

These stories were touching and heartbreaking but most of all, important. Mahmouds story is all too relevant in today's time. The United States continues to wag war on refugees in the political sphere and books like Refugee are important to putting a face, a story, an actual human being, to the elusive word, "refugee". Stories like Josefs, Isabels, or Mahmouds could be our own;  we are only separated by good fortune of circumstance.

Look for the invisible, the forgotten, and help. 

You can get your copy of this book on Amazon by clicking here.




Book Review: Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz

Dear Bookworms,

So I have had a couple Alan Grantz books on my TBR list for what feels like aaaaaages. A friend and fellow bookworm lent me Projekt 1065 and in true Coco fashion, I finished it in a day. I am certainly a fan for life. 

Projekt 1065 tells the tale of a young Irish boy, Michael, living in Nazi Germany in the 1940's. His father (and mother) uses his position as the Irish Ambassador to Berlin to run a spy network for the Allies.

With his eidetic memory and quick wit, Michael uses his position within the Hilters Youth program to gain information that may be useful to the Allies. After learning about a top secret project that could turn the tide of the war in Germany's favor, Michael must dance the line between faithful German youth and Allied spy; his life and the fate of the war could depend on his success.

I have to say, this book was really phenomenal. Nazi Germany can be a really hard hitting topic to write about, and while not as heavy and heart wrenching as others (think Number the Stars) it was thought provoking and engaging in it's own right.

Stories of young people doing extraordinary things always strike a chord with me, especially in the face of adversary or against popular opinion.

The inner turmoil Michael faced when witnessing morally unjust actions while trying to remain undercover really made me feel for him, and raised bigger questions like "do we sacrifice one man for the ultimate goal of saving many?" These are hard hitting moral dilemmas that no child should ever have to encounter, but Michael comports himself with strong character and reason, making those hard calls time and time again.

 The story was action packed, broken into short bursts of chapters which made it virtually impossible to put the book down (the famous last words of any bookworm "just one more chapter!). 

Gratz has certainly found himself a fan with me and I most definitely be reading more (i.e. ALL) of his work going forward.