Review Blog

Apr 29 2012

The wrong boy by Suzy Zail

cover image

Black Dog Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-742031-65-1.
(Ages: 14+) Four stars. In Suzy Zail's emotional narrative, The Wrong Boy, Hanna Mendel is caught in the midst of the horrors of the holocaust. This is Suzy Zail's first work of fiction for young adults and from its opening page, the reader will feel empathy and heartache for those who suffered during this violent era.
Hanna is a young Jewish teenage girl with aspirations for her future. She has hopes of becoming a concert pianist, and is imbued with excitement at the prospect of attending the Budapest Conservatorium of Music. With such promise so close at hand, Hanna can barely comprehend the impact that her family's incarceration in the Debrecen ghetto, and ultimately their internment in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is about to have on her life. With moving clarity, Hannah's voice throughout reveals the stench and raw agony of the cattle trains, the belching prison chimneys, and her awakening to the plight of her family, as her father is drawn away by the SS Guards, leaving her sister and mother to cope alone. Finally with the branding A10573 on her arm, she knows her life has changed forever. Hanna makes an opportunistic decision and joins the Birkenau Women's Orchestra. Her actions have unexpected consequences as she begins an unusual relationship.
This novel will be an excellent library and resource book. It will help to open the conversation with young teenagers about this dark side of modern history, and the atrocities borne by the Jewish people during the Second World War. Suzy Zail has researched well and draws extensively from her wide reading, and her father's first hand accounts of his experiences during the holocaust.
Colleen Tuovinen

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