Girl in the Blue Coat isn’t my favorite WWII YA read, but it is the first one I’ve read about the Dutch Resistance movement, and that might just be the angle that grabs you. I wasn’t hugely impressed by the narrator, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t enjoy it, particularly if you are a fan of historical YA set in the era. I gave it three stars, but many readers on Goodreads and Amazon rated it significantly higher.
Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.
On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.
Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible times.
While I thought the plot had plenty of twists and it was interesting enough, I didn’t love this book. The narrator is rather self-serving initially, so that was a bit of a turn off. When she does make a turn and begins to help others, she still seemed to be motivated primarily as a way to make herself feel better about her past choices. I think the idea was to create the parallels between these characters to show the universal concepts of love and friendship, and I did see some of that, but I saw more of Hanneke being reckless in pursuit of a goal than I saw her embracing the ideas of human sameness. I’m not sure that everyone will have that perception of her, but it stuck with me. I did enjoy learning a bit more about German occupation and the Dutch Resistance movement in WWII, and I think we need more stories of everyday heroism. I just wasn’t sure that Hanneke embodied that for me. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+, and this would be a suitable book for whole class reading at a middle school level. It doesn’t hit hard like The Diary of Anne Frank, but the mystery is engaging enough to keep YA’s reading and Hanneke’s character would make for good discussion.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.