A Night Divided

A Night Divided.jpg




From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen comes a stunning thriller about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.

With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can't help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom? 


My review:


“Individuality was a weakness, a sickness of the west. So we all walked in step, eyes ahead, and with conversations at a minimum.” 
― Jennifer A. Nielsen, A Night Divided

I am so glad to see a middle grade book written about this topic and timeframe. It affords a real sense of what it was like for a German family in Berlin residing on the “wrong” side of the wall albeit its' fictional characters. It seems an underdiscussed thematic that this book is shedding some awareness on. Ask children today….they may have heard about the Berlin Wall, but have not experienced it through a living book. Unlike the abundance of choices about the American Revolution and the Civil War at hand.

“Fear … was the most powerful weapon possessed by the Stasi. — David Cook, British author” 
― Jennifer A. Nielsen, A Night Divided

Gerta, her mother and brother wake up one morning with a wall outside of their apartment. Gerta’s older brother and father have just left Berlin two days prior for some business and won’t have a way to get back to the family that happens to be on the East side of the wall now! Shocked and desperate they try to recall the last times they had together as a family, and try to go on their way with life. 

Oppressed by laws, food and material rations and the Stasi's guarding eyes, it feels choking to Gerta and her brother over time. They have tried so hard to stay good, do right and be grateful. But what could they do? Their “thoughts” it seems are the only thing that cannot be touched and taken away from them, like everything else has. Their dream of the West with all its’ splendor of food, jobs and colorful clothing becomes the strong thread to hold onto. As does their desire to see their father and brother again someday. 

"I didn't want to be like them. And at the same time, I was beginning to forget how to be different, how to be my own self. It was the feeling of being swallowed up, and I hated it.” 
― Jennifer A. Nielsen, A Night Divided

Friends turn on friends. Neighbors spy on neighbors. The bribes and stakes are high. Some pay a deadly price being seen in the wrong place at the wrong time, or having been overheard speaking their mind to the wrong person. 

“Courage isn't knowing you can do something; it's only being willing to try . . .” 
― Jennifer A. Nielsen, A Night Divided

Gerta’s family has a record with the Stasi since her father has always been a freedom activist. This is causing more check-ups on them and a bugged house as general tension seems to be rising in Berlin. But Gerta is a courageous girl. Without her mothers’ knowledge and against her brothers’ resistance, she is devising an escape plan. But it requires a lot of work, a lot of deceiving and several strives with death as she finds herself questioned by Stasi at gunpoint. 

“If I don't stand for freedom, then I must sit in chains.” 
― Jennifer A. Nielsen, A Night Divided

This was a great book. I have not given away any spoilers nor do you know if they make it or what plan she devised. But I can tell you, that there are some intense moments towards the end that made my pulse race and my heart ache. It is written in middle grade fashion and I admit, I am a wimp…but it was really good! There are so many details that I just could not put into this review that were essential to its' ambiance and time that made the novel feel very real. So, if you ever wondered what it was like, or like to shed a little light on this topic, give it a try. It’s like a fresh breeze of a read. Just simply different and well written. Enjoy!