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