When I finished the review for the first book in this series, Once, I said that I would look out for the rest of the books in the series. However, after going to my nearest town - no HIGH STREET (I never go there because it is so small and has a crap selection of books in the library), I would this one, waiting for me.
WOW, didn't realise I would find it THAT quickly. So...I picked it up.
Synopsis: The book starts where the previous one left off after they have escaped. They are two runaway kids in the middle of Nazi-occupied Poland who would shoot them straight away, no questions asked. Soon, they find shelter with a nice, older woman and start to build a family and change their lives. But then, the Nazis come.
Review: When I say it starts where Once left off, I mean it. I starts literally seconds afterwards and is a nice bridge from the old one. If you have not read Once, you could read this one, although they do ever so often refer to past events. I think it's better if you did though, you have a total understanding of the pain and suffering they went through, and the back story of how they met one another.
Felix is Jewish, and was sent to an orphanage by his parents so to protect him from being killed. Zelda's parents, although were Nazi loyalists, were shot dead by them and tried to burn the house down to kill Zelda. However, Felix saved her and she stayed with him.
This is a harrowing, sad, depressing book, that always keep you guessing and wondering. Once was like this but also had comical and happy moments mixed in. Whenever things start to look up for Felix, his whole world gets destroyed all over again. There are twists and turns like a roller coaster and some of the best literature is displayed in this book, it should of won so many more prizes. You never expect anything that happens.
Felix was, once again, a delightful protagonist and I really felt for him, especially latterly. He seems to start having a good time and then, everything is crumbled down. He's a good guy and just wants to protect everyone but himself. I know, the events are not true for just one person in this time, but it makes you really think, through Felix, the horrible, vile times Jewish people had under Nazi rule. Morris Gleitzman makes you think over and over again in your mind, the simple question: Why? WHY? Just, why.
Something we may never know.
I said in my review for Once that Zelda annoyed me. A lot, especially with her constant 'Don't you know anything?' ERM, NO WE DON'T. Anyway, that lovely line was in this book too, BUT not as much and I actually started really connecting with Zelda too, especially when she became a different person - Violetta (I really like that name actually). Zelda is also only six years-old when Felix is ten. It's strange how she seems so grown up and honestly, I thought she was the same age as Felix until said. It's disgraceful how much she had been through just at that age, and many other real people too.
Once again, Gleitzman has started each chapter with the name of the book and ended it the same way - which is so original. At the end, Felix is suddenly so overcome by emotions that he does something completely out of character and quite frightening. However, once he is reminded of his past, he goes back to his old self again.
This book is very different to Once. Instead of kind of setting the scene and introducing characters, it focuses more on other aspects of life in Poland at that time. We see rationing, the Hitler Youth, the SS killing squads and many other social and cultural details. I think I preferred this book to the first and definitely enjoyed it more because of this.
This book is very harrowing and makes you feel very uncomfortable frequently. You are constantly on the edge waiting and knowing what may happen. Events happen sometimes so quickly, you don't realise that you've just read around 10 pages. This is worth a read for anyone that read either Once or just loves this period of history. It may be about younger children, but this book is for any age - but warning, you may cry.
Verdict: A definite read, but I would read Once first before you move onto this. If you didn't like Once, keep going - it's worth it.
I give it 5 out of 5
Author's Website: http://www.morrisgleitzman.com/
Challenges: BBC, Historical Fiction
Book #1: Once
Book #3: Now
Book #4: After