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The Stolen Ones by Vanessa Curtis - Review

Monday, October 21, 2019

I really didn't like this book. I gave it one star on Goodreads (my profile is here, if you're interested and/or want to be friends). I usually give up with books, but I'd got quite far through this one in about half an hour, and I kind of wanted to know where it went, so I just kept reading. I wasn't even sure whether to write a negative review, but given the subject matter, I think it's appropriate. 

This review will include spoilers, so click away if that's not something you want to read. Trigger warning for holocaust literature, too. I bought this book because the premise of a post-World War Two Germany setting appealed to me. I really like books that look at what happened after some kind of huge event, and I thought this fitted in quite well. 

The book is set in Munich in 1956. Inge is nearly sixteen years old and lives with her parents in a nice house. She has a boyfriend, Wilf, who she has to keep secret from her parents because he is Jewish. Her parents have a photo of Hitler in their study, and while Inge doesn't know too much about the war, she knows that her dad was a "good German soldier". 

On her birthday, a letter arrives addressed to someone called Kasia. Inge's parents quickly hide it in her mother's bureau, but then a strange woman turns up at the door and tries to speak to Inge. Inge decides she has to get into the bureau, so she gets Wilf to come to the house to pick the lock (which is his job, it's fine, it's not just a random thing). 

She finds letters and discovers that she is really adopted from Poland, and her birth name is Kasia. The woman who has been at the door is her mother. Inge was stolen from Poland by the Nazis, which is evidenced by a dream that she often has. She sees the woman in the street, but ignores her. She mopes around for a bit before telling her parents that she knows she's adopted. 

She - extremely randomly - discovers that her birth mother is working as a cleaner in the house of one of Inge's schoolmates, Marta. So she goes to the house and demands to see her, instead of, like, waiting for the woman outside? I won't say anymore about the story, but Jeez. 

This book is just really badly written. There's soooo much telling and not showing. Time skips weirdly. Inge gets an idea in her head and then just goes with it, like when she ends up visiting Dachau just by writing to them to ask? She has Marta's mother help her, but it's never shown as to why that is? Inge decides to rely on her "intuition" and does a ton of stupid things because of that. 

Plus, Inge and Wilf are supposed to have been together for about three years, and everyone at their school knows about them, but her parents have never caught on about their relationship? Is that likely? She has him in their house and he regularly drives her home, but her parents have never caught them? Then there's Wilf himself. He's just.... you know that trope of the Sexy Lamp? That's basically what Wilf is here. We never get to see his personality. The pain over losing his mother during the Holocaust isn't addressed, it just exists in order for him to be Jewish in the story and for him to be kept secret from Inge's parents? I'm not happy with the use of literal genocide in this way. 

I did read the whole book, and it wasn't redeemed in any way. I'm glad there was no redeeming of actual Nazis, but equally, I didn't think the subject was dealt with appropriately. I'm giving this one star. 

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