Wednesday, April 24, 2019

World at War: Resistance

Resistance. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2018. Scholastic. 385 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  Two minutes. That's how long I had to get past this Nazi.

Premise/plot: Resistance is set in Poland during the Second World War. Our heroine, Chaya Lindner, is a courier for the resistance. She's Jewish, but she's able to pass as Polish. She slips in and out of Jewish ghettos thanks to her forged papers, appearance, and COURAGE. She is able to smuggle in food, weapons, forged papers, information, and other black market items. She is able to smuggle out children. It's dangerous work. She's known that from day one. But she's fully committed to the cause--saving lives, resisting Nazis, killing Nazis. She is not alone.

When Chaya first meets Esther, she has doubts--BIG DOUBTS. Esther doesn't look like she's capable of helping the cause--far from it. Chaya is convinced that working with Esther will put them--the resistance cell--all in danger. People could die because of Esther. But is Chaya wrong about Esther? Only time will tell.

My thoughts: What a book! Those three words don't say nearly enough. Yet I always hesitate to say that I love, love, love a book that is so dark and intense. Though these characters are fictional, the story of resistance is not. There were real men, women, children who were part of the Jewish/Polish resistance. Many--though not all--died. To resist could lead to death. To not resist would lead to death. There were no easy, safe choices. This is an emotional read starring two very different heroines.

"I wonder if this will ever end."
"The war?"
"The hatred. I remember my father saying that he'd finally come to believe the world had moved past its hatred of Jews, and then this happened."
"Maybe when the world opens its eyes to what has been done to us, they will realize how destructive hate can be."
Esther shrugged again. "Maybe. But they'll forget again, in time. And when they forget, this will all start once more."
I put an arm around her and used it to straighten her posture, "Enough of us must survive the war to tell our stories, and every story will matter. When they remember our stories, they will forget their hatred." (160)

"Why do the Nazis feel they can commit such violence against us? How do they justify it?"
I shrugged. "Because they believe we are less than human. Like animals."
"Exactly! They herd us into train cars like cattle, give our rabbis and scholars the work of oxen, feed us less than what is given to their dogs. And they kill us with no more regard than they'd give to slaughtering a farm animal. But there is something a human can do that an animal never can."
"Create art." I considered that for a moment. "So you sing because--"
"It's proof of my humanity. It allows me, just for the length of that song, to remember who I really am, no matter what surrounds me." (272)

"I loved my father, Chaya. I still do. But being in the Judenrat was an impossible situation. I remember at the beginning, he thought he could help the people here, and he did a lot of good. But very soon, the choices weren't between good and bad, they were between bad and awful."
"A choiceless choice," I mumbled. "There is no winning, only a decision as to how we will lose." (296)
 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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