Author: Monica Hesse
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published Date: April 5th, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Mystery
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
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.
"I've spent two years wanting nobody to trust me, wanting not to be depended on. But now I have seen a transport, and I have seen a deportation center, and I have seen the hopeful handwriting of a frightened girl, and I have seen brave people forced to hide, and mean people become secretly brave."
At 18 Hanneke is having to provide for her parents during WWII and is living a double life by working in the black market. The Dutch have lost so much to the Germans, and continue to lose more each day. Hanneke knows that first hand as her boyfriend Bas died on the front lines in the Dutch Army. With the loss and sorrow she feels responsible, Hanneke is just a shell of who she was before the war.
She starts learning more about the losses others have faced because of this awful war when she is asked by a buyer to find a Jewish girl named Mirjam who has vanished suddenly with no trace of where she could have gone to. Now I know what your thinking, it's WWII Jewish people went missing every day sadly. While that's correct we also know that the people hiding them would have gotten into trouble too. So for Mirjam to have vanished with no one seeing her seems next to impossible or is it?
"Don't you think rule-followers are the best people to organize against the Nazi's? It's not all daring rescues and explosions. It's a lot of tedious paperwork."
This is one thing Hanneke feels like she must get involved in which leads her to Ollie, who works in the resistance and might have information as to where Mirjam could be hiding now.
Overall I really liked this book. Hanneke while at times rather annoying because of how she expects help, but won't help others. Is also a character you will feel for, not only does she miss Bas, but she also feels responsible for his death. Because of the war, and the need to make sure she and her parents survive, she hasn't had time to grieve. Add in having lost her only other best friend (completely understandable given the situation and I think Hanneke decision was a good one), making her feel completely alone. Finding Mirjam gives new life to Hanneke in a way, she starts making friends and feels like she is actually doing something to help during this terrible time.
"I want to be like Bas all the time because he was charming and fun. But he wasn't perfect. Someone else has to be the careful one. Someone has to think, every moment of every day, of how dangerous a single slip could be."
Lets talk about Ollie for a minute, not only does he feel like he lives in Bas shadow, he is also an extremely good actor for reasons I'm sure we can all guess at. While his admitting to it was shocking, it as also nice to see in a Historical Fiction novel when he knew the consequences of someone else finding out could be catastrophic. It was also taken well and no one had a bad thing to say about it.
"You pretend for the Germans, during the war. I pretend for everyone, every day."
I didn't want to put this book down while reading, it because of how fast paced it was and the questions just kept happening and I needed answers! For once I feel like all the big questions got answered and the outcomes while heartbreaking at times were realistic in my opinion.
"I found a girl who wasn't the girl I was looking for. I let go of a friend I'll still miss every day. I'll go back to work. I'll get better. I'll get better slowly. I'll find all the secret, hidden things."
The author states "I wanted to tell a story of small betrayals in a big war." and she really does. The little betrayals that we see happen over and over again in this story, are ones that could have very possibly happened in real life. That's what WWII was, little betrayals that a lot of people did after a point in order to stay alive. It's sad, but it's true.