At the end of the summer of 1939, thirteen-year-old Genevieve decides to stay in Alsace, France, where’s she’s been staying with her grandmother, rather than return home to New York. She’s reluctant to see the summer end and loathe to lose the warm relationships she has built — but she also has a gut feeling that her independent-seeming grandmother may need her support and help. Unbeknownst to Genevieve, her brother, André, has made a similar decision. He hasn’t gone back to New York either, but has joined the French Resistance.
Life changes dramatically for Genevieve and her grandmother when the Nazis arrive in Alsace and one of them commandeers a room in their house. Genevieve and her grandmother have to ride out the war under tension and physical danger, and Genevieve finds bravery and courage when she must.
Renowned author Patricia Reilly Giff does a wonderful job of bringing this story to life. The reader learns about the hardships of life under occupation, and the difficult choices the people of France faced during World War II. The backdrop is vividly painted, and Genevieve’s dilemma as she questions who she can trust in life-threatening situations is evocatively portrayed. Each character turns out to be more complex than they first appear; the protagonist discovers that people need to be given a chance to prove what they are made of in times of extreme stress.
As the story unfolds, the reader watches Genevieve grow and mature, and the level of tension throughout keeps the reader’s interest high. Although the book contains minimal Jewish content, it presents context about the Nazi takeover of Europe from a fresh and often-overlooked perspective.
Recommended for ages 9 to 12.