Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Postcards From No Man's Land

Postcards from No Man's LandPostcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I grabbed this book to read I was frantically packing for a trip to Boston. I needed some reading material for the flight and, since I had recently moved, I couldn't find the charger to my Kindle. There were several titles already loaded on it that I was excited to read. Disappointed and frustrated, I snatched Postcards From No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers from my bookshelf, slightly glancing at the description on the back cover. It seemed like it would suffice.

Not paying attention while packing, I realized on the plane that the book was Young Adult Literature and the winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Michael Prinz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Somehow this book made its way from the books I had purchased for my classroom that are now boxed up and in the basement to my "to read" shelf (yes I have one of those) in my halfway organized new office.

I admit, I don't mind Young Adult Literature from time to time, and in my former English teacher life I quite enjoyed using Young Adult titles in class. So I opened the book, and plunged into the story with hope that this would be a worthwhile backup to my non-charged and useless Kindle.

Immediately, I was blown away and captivated by the storyline. Jacob, the main character, travels to Amsterdam to track down family roots in a quest to honor the grandfather he never knew who died fighting World War II. Not only does Jacob learn about a surprising family secret, but he also falls in love with Amsterdam through a series of unplanned experiences, starting with an encounter with a pick-pocket which leaves him desperate and vulnerable in an unknown place. This vulnerability propels Jacob forward on an unexpected discovery of self.

Without spoiling the surprises of the novel, it is rich with complex characters and some mature situations. At moments the book kept me turning the pages, yet there were a few areas that were predictable. There are certainly some parallels to the novel The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford where the main character discovers a rich family history from a war-time past. In both titles, through the family discovery, the character learns much about love, loss, and living.

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