Title: Orphan Monster Spy
Author: Matt Killeen
Source: ARC (Thanks TeamBkmrk!)
After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah–blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish–finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He’s a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can’t attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she’s ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she’d ever imagined.
Orphan Monster Spy was a book that had intrigued me when I was first sent it. I hadn’t heard of it prior to receiving it but it sounded like an interesting read. Since finishing my History degree in May last year, I haven’t done much research or learning so sometimes historical fiction books will help fill in the gap and satisfy not only my reader heart, but also my history loving heart. One of my particular interests is World War Two so I knew that I just had to read this one.
Orphan Monster Spy is set in 1940s Germany. It follows the story of Sarah, a young Jewish girl but not who a Nazi German may stereotypically deem as Jewish. Sarah has the picture perfect look of the desired Aryan race – blonde hair and blue eyes. Sarah is able to use this to her advantage as she enters a Nazi boarding school and poses as a ‘little monster’. The story is an interesting one and although it’s fiction, I felt that there was truth in parts of it.
When I started this book, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to think of it. It took me a couple of chapters to get into it but once I had found my way and got to know the characters a little more, I was away. We follow our main character, Sarah, who is a young Jewish German girl. She looks younger than she actually is so uses this to her advantage at the beginning of the book. I found that Sarah was quite an intelligent girl, who really began to find her strength throughout this book. By the end, I was quite surprised with how far she had come although she was always destined to be a strong and powerful character once given the tools to be. Sarah has lost everything in her life and so she has nothing to lose. She is a strong willed and clever character in how she is able to use all of her skills and her upbringing to their full advantage.
The primary setting for this book is an all girls school. The setting tries to demonstrate that no matter where the Nazi’s were and even if they were teaching their own, they were brutal in everything they carried out. One of the teachers was particularly brutal in her handling of students. The book also had cliques in and showed a hierarchy at school. The social hierachy of the country during the Nazi period was translated into this book, with the powerful at the top and the weak ranked at the bottom.
One of the things about this book is that nobody really knew the extent of what was happening to those that the Nazi race targeted. It is known that the Jewish German citizens have it rough (an understatement really), as experienced by Sarah herself and it is known that Jewish people have been taken away but, like people at the time, the characters are unaware of what exactly is happening to these people. Kristellnacht has also happened. The prejudice against Jewish people and others is obvious but what we now know happened because of History and the past, the characters in our books had no idea what was really going on. I felt that this was quite important in giving an accurate representation of the period.
The last 50 pages or so of this book are where many things are revealed. I was quite surprised by what happened in these last 50 pages as I hadn’t expected it at all, and it made me feel sorry for one of the other characters that Sarah had started to become close to. I know it’s fiction, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if what one of the Nazi’s did in this book actually happened.
I did find this book interesting but felt like it dipped off a little in the middle. I think this is potentially more me than the book itself as I have been like this with quite a few books over the past two/three months. Despite feeling like this, the book didn’t quite keep my attention as much as I would have hoped in the middle of it.
I feel a little like I’ve written an essay on this book mostly because it’s history related and anything I write that is even just a little history related feels like I’m back in University and writing an assignment.
To round off what feels like an essay correctly…In conclusion, I enjoyed this book. I liked Sarah, our main character, and watching her character progression. I thought that the writing was quite decent and that it tackled the historical topic of Nazi Germany in an interesting way that would appeal to the YA community.
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