Book Review | Life Behind the Wall

Life Behind the Wall
Candy Bombers | Beetle Bunker | Smuggler's Treasure
Robert Elmer

Publisher:  Zondervan
Genre:  YA, Historical Fiction
Released:  2014

[rear cover]
Cut Off By The Iron Curtain

This epic tale extends across generations and unfolds against the backdrop of a dangerous Cold War Berlin.  This historically accurate, action-packed, three-books-in-one edition features three generations of resourceful teens living in the shadow of the Berlin Wall.

Titles include:
Candy Bombers:  In spring 1948, teenage cousins Erich and Katarina are simply trying to survive in war-ravaged Berlin when the Soviets blockade the east side of the city, isolating its citizens--starving them--behind the Iron Curtain.

Beetle Bunker:  In August 1961, Sabine discovers a forgotten underground bunker.  Though she first uses it to escape her crowded home, she soon realizes her hideout could possibly take her family under the wall to West Berlin and freedom!

Smuggler's Treasure:  In spring 1989, life is good in West Germany, and even the Cold War seems to be thawing in the warmer weather.  But as Liesl works on a class project about the history of the wall, she stumbles onto a startling secret no one will talk about.

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WARNING: Possible Spoilers

Another historical fiction!  If you like history, especially that of WWII and the years following, you will enjoy this tale (or should I say tales).  :]  While these stories are geared more for preteens and young adults, maybe ages 11 and up, I thoroughly enjoyed each and would definitely recommend to anyone interested.

[The Basics]
Each of these stories have at least two main characters that you follow.  In Candy Bombers, it is Erich and Katarina.  In Beetle Bunker, Sabine (say-BEE-nuh) and Willi.  Smuggler's Treasure, Liesl and Nick.

With Erich and Katarina, we learn how difficult it was to survive in the years following the "end" of WWII.  For the people of Germany, the war didn't end, and wouldn't for 40 more years.  Food is scarce and strictly rationed.  Women work to clean up the rubble left from bombings and to get extra ration cards for bread and milk, because most of their men never returned from the war.  With the Russians controlling half of the city of Berlin, the two cousins search desperately for hope, even reaching so far as to trespass on American territory to grab extra food for their aging and stubborn grandmother, who lives in Soviet-occupied part of the city.  They run into, literally, American soldiers and the start of three books begins there.  

Thirteen years later, Sabine Becker, younger sister of Erich (now an intern at the local hospital), who has suffered from polio since birth, uses crutches to get around.  She discovers, accidentally, an underground bunker and converts it into her personal getaway--a place to relax and read, far from her overbearing Communist aunt and uncle.  However, she soon finds her safe haven could be so much more: a chance at freedom, for not just her family, but maybe that of her friend, Willi, as well.

Spring forward to 1989, where Liesl Stumpff lives with her family in their cozy apartment in West Germany.  Life seems good here, though the wretched wall still stands, separating her from her Onkel Erich.  When Liesl begins researching the wall's history for a school project, she finds much more than she bargained for and a secret that's been hidden for forty years.  More than one wall is torn down in her story.

Because this review is covering three stories in one, each roughly 180-200 pages each, I shall refrain from the tiny details.  :]


[Spiritual Content]
Christian fiction.  Each character has an innocent faith in God.  And each grows in their belief despite hardship and walls.


[Violence]
Officers, policemen, and soldiers carry weapons.  These weapons are used at times, though we do not directly read the details.

A boy falls from his "Frankenbike" (a monster bike, put together from various pieces of other bicycles) and scrapes his chin, staining his shirt in blood.  The same boy is captured by a man of the Stasi, secret police, and tied and gagged to await a ransom of sorts.

A man is shot while trying to climb the fence that divides East Berlin from the West.  He is carried away by ambulance, but we get the impression that he survives.

Shots are fired in the air to ward off protesters.  Mobs of people swarm the streets and blood is briefly mentioned in one encounter between protesters and police.


[Language, Drugs/Alcohol Content]
Brief mention of Russians drinking.  Heroine and maybe one other drug is mentioned as something a person would smuggle across the border.

No language.  The word "stinking" is thrown around in anger by a character, though no one is there to hear her rant.


[Conclusion]
Overall, an easy, enlightening, and educational read.  I enjoyed reading the small snippets of historical facts thrown in at the end of each story.  Mr. Elmer does a fantastic job of drawing his readers in and giving them a history lesson in the process.  Each character is fun and relate-able, typical of young teens.  Faith plays a strong part in their lives and mystery makes each tale all the more enthralling.  I simply loved how each story tied into the others.  You start with a couple characters and in a way follow them through the years of hardship and on to celebration.

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Recommended ages:  11+


I was provided a copy of this book in return for my honest review,

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3 comments

Brittney Johnson said...

Looks like an awesome book!

Risa said...

Sounds like a fun and interesting set of stories... Great review! :)

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Thanks, ladies! I really enjoyed this one. :]