Girl in the Blue Coat
Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.
On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person – a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.
Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice.
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: April 5th 2016
War, Death, Grief
“But when it comes down to it, we all die alone.”
I’m… disappointed. Underwhelmed. Don’t really know how to feel. I was just expected something sadder, something more thought-provoking. Don’t get me wrong, it was okay, despite my lowering the rating at a later date. Maybe it was just a personal preference and that’s okay.
We follow Hanneke, a grief-ridden girl who works for the black market getting people what they need as a small rebellious act towards Hitler. On one of her runs, a client asks her to find a person, which at first she declines but ends up doing anyways.
“Here is the thing about my grief: It’s like a very messy room in a house where the electricity has gone out.”
I couldn’t really feel any sympathy for our main character. There’s no connection between her dead boyfriend, we don’t get to know him or their relationship much so I can’t feel anything.
And Hanneke as a main character was boring. Not only did she make not so smart decisions, she was just so… dull. The side characters were boring and forgettable. The girl she’s looking for and the mystery surrounding her… I just wasn’t interested. And that plot twist? Very obvious in my eyes.
“Lucky has become such a relative term, when the standards to meet it involve only not being treated like a criminal in your own home city.”
There was one side character who kind of caught my interest, Willem who was gay, but he was rarely there. Her relationship with her parents, while nice, could’ve been more and the way they left on bad terms makes me think that their relationship is shattered which would break my heart if I was invested.
It would’ve been nice to have a supportive family through her time of grief and I get it, she’s grieving, but no type of reconciliation? It would’ve been a great addition to her character development.
And speaking of character development… I just feel like this story could’ve been more powerful if we were following a Jew struggling in this situation… which all of the Jewish characters felt like an afterthought despite said time period. Instead we’re following a girl who isn’t really doing much, things weren’t happening and I felt a certain way about the Jewish characters, even the titular girl in the blue coat who remains nameless for the majority of the book, are used to further the non-marginalized characters’ development.
Again, I can I guess see how people liked and connected with this story, but maybe I’m just being picky… I wasn’t really here for this.