The Girl with the Blue Coat
by Monica Hesse

published April 5th 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
young adult | historical fiction

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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.

Book Review

As a huge historical fiction fan, I have been anticipating The Girl in the Blue Coat ever since I first read the summary. And it doesn’t disappoint. This is an intelligently plotted novel that touches on friendship, betrayal, and what it really means to be brave.

It’s 1943 in Amsterdam, and Hanneke is rebelling against the Nazi occupation by delivering black market goods across the city. Hanneke is shocked when one of her clients asks her a favor: a Jewish teenager she has been hiding has disappeared, and she needs Hanneke to find her before the Nazis do.

Hanneke isn’t anyone especially memorable or special – she’s just a young girl smuggling so she can earn some money to help her family survive. Yet, that’s what makes her feel so real and relatable. She reminds us that ordinary people just like you or me can be brave and do good things.

When we think of World War Two, we usually think of the people murdered during the Holocaust. But we never really think about the people who constantly risked their lives behind the scenes to rebel against the Nazis, and that’s what The Girl in the Blue Coat focuses on. The topic isn’t something I’ve seen discussed in historical fiction before, but it is interesting to read about and clearly well-researched.

This is another great addition to the YA historical fiction genre. Fans of World War Two stories such as Code Name Verity, The Book Thief and Prisoner of Night and Fog are going to love this.


About Zoe

Zoe is a critical reviewer. When she’s not reviewing, you can find her performing in plays / musicals, doing gymnastics, or designing websites.

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12 thoughts on “Review: The Girl with the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

  1. YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! I don’t know why I keep on checking for affirmations for this book when I was so sure this is going to be great. I really NEED this book!


  2. I haven’t read that much historical fiction but I definitely want to read more in the future, so I’ll be adding this to my TBR pile! It’s great when a book has a character that isn’t a “special snowflake” or “the chosen one” but just an ordinary character doing remarkable things. Great review! :)


  3. This one definitely feels like it was a really thought provoking novel in the Nazi era! I hadn’t heard of it before and WWII isn’t my thing but it definitely sounds like the character was relatable here, despite her circumstances. Lovely review Zoe!


  4. I kind of passed this book up at first because the cover didn’t pull me in but the more I saw it around the more I paid attention and read the summary and i am excited for it now. I do love a good historical fiction. glad you loved it.


  5. This one sounds really interesting, it’s actually the second time I’m hearing about it! I like that it’s set in Amsterdam, because it’s a different setting from what we usually see in World War II fiction. Moreover, it’s so important to write about ‘ordinary’ people doing small acts of bravery, because it’s a way of resisting and what most people that wanted to resist probably did. I’m adding it to my TBR, great review Zoe! :)


  6. This sounds excellent. I’m a big fan of historical fiction like The Book Thief and Code Name Verity, and great review (short and sweet :) )


  7. Okay, I’m a HUGE FAN OF WWII stories. I’M A FAN OF THE BOOK THIEF! I’m sure that I will love this—I just need to get my hands on it soon! Thank you so much for sharing your review, Zoe! For once, we have a story that’s not about the Holocaust, even though that’s a beautiful theme as well! I’m getting the Anne Frank vibe from this! :D


  8. I’m about to read this one, and it sounds amazing! I’ve read a few great posts on it, and I’m looking forward to starting it. I think you’re right in that we don’t usually think of the people who rebelled against the Nazis :) I read the Maus duology a few months ago, and that reminded me a little bit of what you’re talking about. You should check it out if you like graphic novels! Great review :)

    – Eli @ The Silver Words


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