genre: young adult historical fiction
book 11 of 12 for the 2009 Young Adult Challenge
book 5 of 5 for the War Through the Generations Challenge
Helmuth is a pretty typical youth in Germany. He works hard at school. He has a great love for his country. He agrees with everyone around him that Germany was unfairly treated at the end of The Great War and he can see the potential that lies in the Nazi party to bring his beloved country back to greatness. One thing does separate him, though: he's a Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And as he grows older and as the Nazis rise in power, he begins to see a conflict arise in his heart between his love of his religion and the state's desire, nay, demand, for him to see Adolf Hitler as his only savior.
Events in Hamburg, both in the city as a whole and specific things that happen to people he love, make the teenage Helmuth begin to realize that something in his country has gone very wrong. And despite the vast machine of terror he is up against, Helmuth decides to take action -action that may very well cost him his life, but will help him to keep his faith and spirit intact.
What an amazing story this is, based on the actual life of Helmuth Heubener. Bartoletti has written it in such a powerful and yet, simplistic way. As a member of the Mormon church, I was incredibly impressed that she got the feel of our beliefs right, even the more specific cultural language felt authentic. And Germany - its landscape and food, the love of the Fatherland that runs deep within the veins of its citizens, she got it just right also. And despite the deeper nature of the story, she told it with care and sensitivity - I might venture to say that it's the perfect introduction to World War II literature for young adults, even as young as 10 or 11, if they are interested. Because even as horrible things are happening, Helmuth is a shining example of standing up when it comes time for a choice to be made - and that even when you aren't yet an adult, having peace in your heart because you've done what you know is right is worth sacrificing everything for.