Genre; Historical Fiction
# of Pages: 400
Karl is living in Berlin in 1934 and although he does not look Jewish or practice any Jewish beliefs he has ancestors who were Jewish and because of this connection has started getting bullied by the Hitler Youth. After one particularly bad beating he had to go serve at his father’s art gallery opening and he meets Max Schmeling, the famous German boxer. Max offers Karl free boxing lessons in exchange for a painting and Karl takes this promise seriously. He begins working out on his own while Max travels overseas and it’s almost a year before he actually joins the Berlin Boxing Club with Max as his coach. He begins fighting in some junior competitions and slowly the men from the boxing club begin to support him. Karl is always careful never to reveal details from his personal life, however. At home, he has been expelled from his school and evicted from his house because of his heritage. His parents fight all the time and do not know what to do. Things finally come to a head on Kristallnacht and Karl knows they need to get out. Is he strong enough to stand up and fight for his family? Who can he rely on for help?
Fans of Between Shades of Gray, Night, and Sarah’s Key will enjoy this title. It is very serious and realistic in how Karl and his entire life begin to unravel during WWII. You also see many periphery characters and how they react to their own changing environments, some for the better and some for worse. Karl is a very honest young man and often admits he wishes he wasn’t Jewish so that he wouldn’t have to worry about the abuse and prejudice. He doesn’t hate his old friends for joining Hitler Youth because he is too jealous. He has no connection to his Jewish faith which means he has no conviction to fight for it. He does not handle every situation heroically, but he does respond the best way he knows how at the time. The boxing aspect provides a unique spin on things because boxing was big during this time in Germany and although trained people could ensure a fair fight, the outside world is not so simple. Highly recommended.