Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Review: "Defy the Night" is a tale to make readers consider true courage and sacrifice. Heather Munn and Lydia Munn teach young adult readers valuable lessons through their teenage protagonist, Magali. The story takes place in 1940s France, when Hitler's regime is beginning to carry out their devastating plot against Jews. The setting provides a different perspective of World War II for both young adult and adult readers, and the Munns describe the political and social environment with clarity and realism. The pages capture what can only be small fraction of the desolation of the Jew interment camps in France, but the images are sad and emotionally stirring. The bravery of the female aid workers who entered the camps and transferred countless children to safety is remarkable and inspiring. Their story is one that deserves to be told.
After reading "Defy the Night," I am left with mixed feelings. The historical element is compelling, but Magali's perspective is sometimes distracting. Some of the conversation sounds too modern for a novel set in the 1940s. At the same time, young adult readers need to relate to Magali and a more modern tone may help to build a connection. Magali comes across as impulsive, bitter, and critical of her friends and family throughout much of the novel. These qualities are not condoned, and often cause trouble for Magali and the cause she is trying to support. Magali's character alternates between soft and hard. Just when she seems to be maturing, a thought or action mars the impression of growth. In the end, Magali learns an important lesson of sincere sacrifice and shows maturity.
The secondary characters clearly have their own stories to tell. Paquerette's perspective as an aid worker would make a powerful foundation for an adult novel. Nina is a background character in "Defy the Night," whose story is told in "How Huge the Night," I hope that the voices of Magali's other friends will find life in the pages of future books.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Description from Kregel Publications: In the midst of war, one teenager is determined to make a difference. If no one will do anything, she'll have to do it herself.
In 1941 France is still "free." But fifteen-year-old Magali is frustrated by the cruel irony of pretending life is normal when food is rationed, new clothes are a rarity, and most of her friends are refugees. And now the government is actually helping the Nazis. Someone has got to do something, but it seems like no one has the guts—until Paquerette arrives.
Smuggling refugee children is Paquerette's job. And she asks Magali to help.
Working with Paquerette is scary and exhausting, but Magali never doubts that it is the right thing to do. Until her brash actions put those she loves in danger.