Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Historical Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult
Published by Albert Whitman Company on September 1, 2017
Source: Edelweiss, Provided by Publisher
Amazon, Barnes & Noble , The Book Depository
When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.
“All the facts in history books couldn’t prepare someone for standing in a place where history was present tense”.
It’s going to be easier for me to just jot down what I loved about this book that try and elaborate an essay so here we go:
- This book definitely falls on the heavier, darker side of YA. In a way, that makes it even more relevant and important to the times we ourselves are facing. The topics mentioned are not easy to digest; there is racism, talk of the Holocaust, death on page, genocide, the anxiety of war and totalitarian regimes, antisemitism, etc…But what this books does right? It gives in-depth conversations on these topics and calls out problematic trains of thought on page. There is also no attempt to romanticize any of these gruesome events. It’s just the gritty and the terrible, told in a way anyone can digest and empathize.
- Even though it is pretty dark, we do get the fantastic element and plenty of magic mixed with some science fiction. You would think that would confuse you more but it actually makes the story even more complete and interesting. It was whimsical and terrifying all at once; the perfect magic system.
- The book is narrated in three different points of view. We have Ellie’s perspective, Kai’s perspective and Benno’s perspective. This narrative strategy can go so wrong in so many ways but Katherine Locke has it down to a T. Each of these characters voices is easily distinguishable and all of them are equally enjoyable. I never felt myself wanting to skip someone’s part because I wanted to read about all their stories. I would have loved to have read Mitzi’s PoV but I’m guessing we might get that in the next installment!
- A diverse cast you can’t help but love. Kai is a Romani boy from England, fleeing his community in order to keep his powerful little sister safe; his friends are everything to him and his heart is full with purpose and promises he must keep. Ellie is a Jewish-American, grand-daughter of a Holocaust survivor; a girl who feels too much but stands up firmly for what she believes in. Mitzi is German and lesbian living in a place in time where being gay is excuse enough to have her arrested; she’s bright and unapologetically her, no matter the consequences. They’re a trio you’ll never forget, I promise.
- The romance. I don’t normally enjoy romance in YA as much as I would like to. I find the tropes repetitive and unrelated to the actual story. Sometimes it can take way too much time away from the plot and I end up feeling more irked than giddy. This isn’t the case for Kai and Ellie. I am the captain of this ship and I will sail it proudly until the end of time. If you must know one thing about me, it’s that I am a huge sucker for low burn romances and angst. Kai is broody (which is pretty trope-y, sure) but he’s also incredibly loyal, selfless and kind; Ellie is strong and brave in her soft way. Together…they wrecked me. The chemistry between them is undeniable and beautiful. They both want what’s best for each other and even in the difficult times they’re living, they know the value of trust and communication. Above all, they’re friends to each other; seeing them falling in love felt like falling in love.
- The writing is phenomenal; there are countless passages that make you stop and think and make your heart break. It’s not overly descriptive but there is a lot of internal monologues. Usually that would annoy me but the way everything is narrated is so beautiful. I read this book with a constant ache in my chest. My ARC is thoroughly highlighted and once I get hands on a physical copy I’ll make sure to annotate it even more.
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