(E) Ages 12-15, (F) Ages 15-18, Adventure/Thriller, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction
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Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

A teenage girl enlists in the Jewish resistance in Poland during World War II.

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen.  Scholastic, 2018, 385 pages.

Reading Level: Teen, 12-15

Recommended for: ages 12-18

When the German tanks rolled over the Polish border in September 1959, World War II began and Chaya Lindner’s life changed forever.  Before, she was warm and loved in her Jewish household with her parent, brothers, and little sister.  After, the noose tightened quickly: within two years, her family was living in the ghetto at Krakov, her little sister had been taken away to die in “camp,” her brother had disappeared and her mother had given up all hope.  And Chaya, with her Aryan looks and assumed Christian name, had joined Akiva, the Jewish resistance.

She works as a courier, smuggling messages, food and vital medical supplies into the ghetto.  But with the attack on the Cygneria Café in December 1942, Akiva declares its own war on the occupiers, scoring fatalities, casualties and swift retribution.  From then on, Chaya is not just a courier but a soldier, facing torture and death if she gets caught.  On one of her first sabotage missions, a new member joins the group: a girl who appears to have little aptitude for the work.  But there’s more to Esther than meets the eye, and when she has to deliver a package to Warsaw, Chaya must go along.

This is a Holocaust story that takes place outside the infamous death camps, instead focusing on the ghettos of all the major Polish cities.  The Warsaw Uprising is a neglected incident of the war, and kudos to Jennifer Nielsen for devoting the last third of the book to it.  She’s not a great prose stylist, and some of Chaya’s musings seem a bit perfunctory.  But the challenges posed by immanent death and supreme cruelty get their due.  Is all killing murder?  Can peace come through resistance? Is life still good?  Most of all, is God honored more by fighting for him and dying for him?  As in A Night Divided, the author gives due regard to the role of faith in these matters and the story she tells is better for it.

Cautions: Intense situations

Overall Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4.5
  • Artistic value: 3.75


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  1. Treva says

    Just interested in your comment that Nielsen is not a great prose stylist. Can you tell more about that? Maybe give an example?

    • Janie says

      Treva–I’m afraid I don’t have any examples written down–would have to track down some of the books and page through them and don’t have time for that now. It might not be a fair comment; just that at times I felt her prose to be a bit stilted or awkward. With so many books in print, though, she must be doing something right!

  2. Shannon says

    Can you tell me if there is romance in this book? Are the intense situations from the war aspect?

    • Janie says

      There may have been a mild romantic angle–I honestly don’t remember. The intensity is definitely from the war, particularly the threat to children.

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