Finished February 9
Graffiti Knight by Karen Bass
This teen novel is set in Leipzig, Germany in 1947. Wilm is in his second last year of high school, yet he has stopped trying in school. Living in the Soviet Zone of Germany feels like being in prison, his sister has become a shadow of her former self, and his father's war injury has left him resentful and his mother subdued. Wilm escapes on the weekends to his uncle Bruno's farm to work and get some much needed food. His math teacher Herr Bader has taken an interest in him and tries to get him to try in his schoolwork again so that he can attend university as his parents wish.
One day Wilm gives in to an impulse when playing a game with his friends and takes a risk against the Soviets. He gets away with it, and makes a new friend, an older man who encourages his university aspirations and urges him to find ways to build rather than destroy. But Wilm likes the way his act of defiance made him feel and begins to take more risks, leaving a message behind each time, giving his opinion of the police, that they are mere puppets, Marionetten, of the occupying Soviets. That is, until one of his acts of defiance puts those he cares about into danger.
Great story, set in a time and place that I've not read about before. Bass makes Wilm, come alive as a complex character being forced to grow up more quickly than he should. His friends Karl and Georg, his sister Anneliese, and Georg's friend Ruth also are multidimensional. She also gives a real sense of what post-war Soviet-occupied Germany was like for the people who lived there.
An additional cool factor for me is that the author is Canadian, and from the same part of the country as my parents. This book made the OLA Best Bets list this year, a well-deserved honour.