While I was in New York on the anniversary/ book trip, the fine people at Coteau Books (based in my beloved home province of Saskatchewan) sent me two intriguing looking books. I picked up one of them, Summer of Fire, after finishing Keys to the Demon Prison Tuesday night, and briefly wondered if it was unfair to read it right after such a wonderful fantasy book. But I decided to read it all the same, and can I tell you? I wasn't disappointed.
Karen Bass has woven the story of two troubled teenagers, in different times but the same city, together in a very engrossing way. 16 year old Del has been sent from Edmonton to Germany to visit her sister Cassandra and her husband Mathias for the summer. She's a wild child and because of a lot of recent issues her sister and her parents think this might be the best temporary solution for her. Del does not agree.
Simultaneously we get the story of quiet Garda, shunned by everyone around her for an incident not of her making but for which her town chooses to judge her for.
Garda's story, compelling and devastating, is set in 1942-43 and she struggles both with Nazi party pressures, the war around her and her slow understanding of some of the horrors surrounding her. You would think the comparison between these two girls would belittle Del's problems, but the story has been crafted so you still feel Del's sorrows as well, although she does get a titch overly angsty at times. The Book Thief is the only other book I can think of (from recent memory anyhow), using sympathetic German characters set in World War II and showing the adversity of not agreeing with Nazi policies. It's a fascinating view point, especially in this story with Garda's situation.
Dell becomes a lovable character of her own as well, and was surprised when I got weepy when her big scene takes place towards the end. I was constantly impressed by how Karen Bass was able to have these significantly different stories co-exist and not have them take away from each other. Obviously Garda's was a story of far more adversity, but at no point does it belittle Del, which I kept thinking it would.
This was a really lovely read, not something I was likely to run into on my own (as the hubby put it, the cover doesn't do it justice), and I would highly recommend it.
Summer of Fire, By Karen Bass
Published by Coteau Books, October 2009