September 5, 2015
By Emily Ellsworth
“A NIGHT DIVIDED,” by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Scholastic, $16.99, 336 pages (f) (ages 8-12)
Gerta’s family is divided into East and West after the Berlin Wall goes up practically overnight in “A Night Divided” by Jennifer A. Nielsen.
Gerta, her mother and her brother Fritz remain on the east side in their home, while her father and middle brother are trapped on the west side, unable to return home. With the rise of the wall, conditions change rapidly for Gerta and her family, and she finds herself looking for ways to escape. With nearly no one she can trust, Gerta is left with the dangerous task of reuniting her family.
In this novel released in August, Jennifer A. Nielsen branches out from the familiar fantasy genre that has given her success, including her Ascendance trilogy.
This take on life in Germany after World War II is interesting and timely given the immigration crises in the United States and parts of Europe today. Gerta represents so many Eastern Europeans who found themselves divided from their families and desperate to get back.
“A Night Divided” is interesting in spite of some confusing decisions by Gerta and her mother, as well as some pacing issues. While the beginning of the narrative outlines the trouble in East Germany, especially with food scarcity and nosy neighbors, much of the rest of the novel is dedicated to the escape. The ending in particular had some moments that didn’t feel natural or felt a bit contrived to increase tension.
Look to this novel to provide younger readers a glimpse into life in Germany after the armistice agreement. It’s a timely subject and one that can be overlooked.
“A Night Divided” does have some tense scenes, but with little to no descriptive violence, foul language or sexual content. It’s a stand-alone novel with no planned follow-ups or sequels.