My apologies for the tardiness of this posting. In my pre-holiday chaos, things, mostly my brained, were skewed. 🤯
July 27, 2021
Algonquin Young Readers
Can two cousins on opposite sides of the Cold War and a divided city come together when so much stands between them?
Drew is an army brat in West Berlin, where soldiers like his dad hold an outpost of democracy against communist Russia. Drew’s cousin Matthias, an East Berliner, has grown up in the wreckage of Allied war bombing, on streets ruled by the secret police.
From enemy sides of this Cold War standoff, the boys become wary friends, arguing over the space race, politics, even civil rights, but bonding over music. If informants catch Matthias with rock ’n’ roll records or books Drew has given him, he could be sent to a work camp. If Drew gets too close to an East Berliner, others on the army post may question his family’s loyalty. As the political conflict around them grows dire, Drew and Matthias are tested in ways that will change their lives forever.
Set in the tumultuous year leading up to the surprise overnight raising of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, and illustrated with dozens of real-life photographs of the time, Walls brings to vivid life a heroic and tragic episode of the Cold War.
Considering that I just read a historical novel with an opening backdrop of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it seems only fitting that I should read a historical novel about the raising of the Berlin Wall.
When Drew’s father is stationed in Berlin in 1960, his family accompanies him. It entails huge changes for the teenage members of the family who are leaving behind extracurricular activities they might have continued in college but also affects the youngest member who’s had to leave behind her beloved dog. Tensions are high in the divided city and all of the military families are made aware of how cautious they should be.
Drew and his family meet members of his mother’s family who still live in East Germany, including a cousin, Matthias, who is Drew’s age and initially seems to disdain all that Drew and the western capitalists are about.
In Walls, L.M. Elliott takes her reader back in time to the Cold War, John Kennedy, and Elvis Presley; when words like “golly” were still part of the language. In between chapters are bits of pictorial history showing what was going on at that time. I loved the set up. Amidst the very human story of cousins experiencing extremely different lives in the same city, I learned so much about Berlin, its people and culture as well as the harshness the people living on the East side faced and the slap-in-the-face that was the erecting of barbed wire in the middle of the night to keep the respective citizens on their own sides.
Elliott does a great job on the fictional part of the story as well, showing that people and their behavior are generally gray, not black and white. That what you see on the surface does not truly indicate what is beneath. That people are facing their own dramas, their own battles.
Just to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same, some of the issues being raised regarding race and gender still occur to this day. As we know. Again, I appreciated the facts and lessons throughout the novel.
Walls not only interweaves facts and history but keeps the reader on edge with personal drama and intrigue as well as heart-warming family interactions. This was a well- paced and crafted novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
4 out of 5 butterflies