The Blood Years

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Modern Age

The Blood Years
Author: Arnold, Elana K.
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1938-1945
Geographic Area: Europe
Country: Romania
Topics: Holocaust
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Young Adult, Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2023

Content Warning
genocide, violence, death, sexual assault, rape

World History > Modern Age > WWII / Holocaust

From Michael L. Printz honoree & National Book Award finalist Elana K. Arnold comes the harrowing story of a young girl's struggle to survive the Holocaust in Romania.

Frederieke Teitler and her older sister, Astra, live in a house, in a city, in a world divided. Their father ran out on them when Rieke was only six, leaving their mother a wreck and their grandfather as their only stable family. He’s done his best to provide for them and shield them from antisemitism, but now, seven years later, being a Jew has become increasingly dangerous, even in their beloved home of Czernowitz, long considered a safe haven for Jewish people. And when Astra falls in love and starts pulling away from her, Rieke wonders if there’s anything in her life she can count on—and, if so, if she has the power to hold on to it.

Then—war breaks out in Europe. First the Russians, then the Germans, invade Czernowitz. Almost overnight, Rieke and Astra’s world changes, and every day becomes a struggle: to keep their grandfather’s business, to keep their home, to keep their lives. Rieke has long known that she exists in a world defined by those who have power and those who do not, and as those powers close in around her, she must decide whether holding on to her life might mean letting go of everything that has ever mattered to her—and if that’s a choice she will even have the chance to make.

Based on the true experiences of her grandmother’s childhood in Holocaust-era Romania, award-winning author Elana K. Arnold weaves an unforgettable tale of love and loss in the darkest days of the twentieth century—and one young woman’s will to survive them.

Emily's Review

I'm always looking for books set in this time period outside of the norm - books set in other countries outside of Germany, France, or Russia. Books about different lived experiences during WWII and the Holocaust. So I was very excited to read this story. Set in Romania, it gives us a different perspective, as they were first occupied by the Soviet Union, then the Germans. We're given a chance to see the different ways those occupations affected the country, particularly the Jews.

The characters in this book are based on the author's grandmother and her family, and I thought it was a really beautiful tribute. The characters felt real and raw - they weren't always likeable, particularly Astra, the older sister, who is sometimes cruel to her little sister. I really loved Opa, and the way he stuck to his morals no matter what. In such a dark time, that must have been so hard to do. Also, don't skip the Author's note at the end - it's powerful, and a great reminder that we learn history so that we can see the patterns and stand up for injustice everywhere.

There are some really dark moments in this book, as to be expected from any book set in this time period, so be aware of the content warnings. There is sexual assault and rape in this story, as well as violence. I'd say this book is best for older teens.

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