My Long List of Impossible Things

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Modern Age

My Long List of Impossible Things
Author: Barker, Michelle
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1945
Geographic Area: Europe
Country: Germany
Topics: World War II
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Young Adult, Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2020

World History > Modern Age > WWII

A brilliant historical YA that asks: how do you choose between survival and doing the right thing?

The arrival of the Soviet army in Germany at the end of World War II sends sixteen-year-old Katja and her family into turmoil. The fighting has stopped, but German society is in collapse, resulting in tremendous hardship. With their father gone and few resources available to them, Katja and her sister are forced to flee their home, reassured by their mother that if they can just reach a distant friend in a town far away, things will get better. But their harrowing journey brings danger and violence, and Katja needs to summon all her strength to build a new life, just as she’s questioning everything she thought she knew about her country.

Katja’s bravery and defiance help her deal with the emotional and societal upheaval. But how can she stay true to herself and protect the people she loves when each decision has such far-reaching consequences?

Acclaimed writer Michelle Barker’s second novel explores the chaos and destruction of the Second World War from a perspective rarely examined in YA fiction—the implications of the Soviet occupation on a German population grappling with the horrors of Nazism and its aftermath.

Emily's Review

What is the cost of doing nothing?

World War II stories are some of my favorite historical fiction to read, but I've read very little about the aftermath of the war. This young adult novel focuses on two sisters, Katja and Hilde, who are fleeing their German village after Russia invaded and took control at the end of the war. Katja is a very impulsive and naive girl who makes rash decisions that often end up causing more trouble than she anticipated. This story is about her coming to terms with her impulsiveness, as well as coming to terms with the guilt many Germans experienced as they realized the atrocities that the Nazis had committed.

This story is about survival, guilt, and responsibility. The characters felt very real, and the situations they found themselves in, as well as the ways that they each dealt with them, were very realistic and a great exploration of humanity. Some people will look for scapegoats, some will completely ignore the tragedy around them while focusing on their own survival, and others will do what they can to help. I really appreciate reading from different perspectives and seeing the way that ordinary Germans viewed what was happening. I also greatly appreciate that the author didn't try to make the Germans out to be sympathetic victims - they may not all have participated in the Nazis crimes, but they all had to learn to live with the knowledge that they looked the other way rather than fight against what they saw happening. The author did a fantastic job of exploring that.

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