One of the things that I especially enjoy about Jennifer Nielsen's books is how quickly she gets into the action. Not only do I enjoy that, but so do young readers, especially middle grade readers. If a book isn't interesting right off the bat, a lot of students won't stick with it. While this book is historical fiction, a genre that many middle grade readers aren't very interested in, it doesn't read like a boring history book at all. In fact it reads more like a thriller.
One morning Gerta wakes up to discover a wall shutting her off from her father and brother. She's left in East Berlin with her mother and her older brother, Fritz. Four years later, Gerta still can't help staring at the wall and thinking about what's on the other side. And seeing her brother and then her father for the first time in four years is exciting but also dangerous when a East German soldier spots her doing it. It's also baffling. Gerta's father is dancing? Eventually Gerta figures out what her father is trying to tell her and finds the perfect place to build a tunnel. But is it worth the risk? After Gerta's friend's brother is killed trying to escape, Gerta isn't so sure. Until it becomes clear that her family has been marked by the Stasi, the East German Secret Police, and have very little to look forward to in the future. With her brother's help, Gerta works to build the tunnel. But with so many eyes on them, is it even possible to get the tunnel built? And even if they build the tunnel, they have little time remaining before Fritz must report to the military to serve. Can they keep their secret long enough to escape? And will their mother come with them if they do?
Nielsen's written a real page-turner. I couldn't wait to find out how things turned out for Gerta and her family. Not only is this an exciting book to read but it's also eye-opening in the historical details it provides about living behind the Berlin Wall. Another great book from one of my favorite authors.