by Antonia Michaelis
Mature high school, 11th grade and up
Reviewed by: Anarda
S U M M A R Y
As a studious and dependable student, Anna has never caused concern for anyone, not for her parents, her bold friend Gitta, her teachers, and least of all for herself. She sees herself as absolutely unadventurous and ordinary. So when she begins to wonder about Abel, the mysterious foreign student called “the Polish peddler” by her classmates, she surprises everyone, not least of all Abel, who everyone knows is a petty drug dealer, and perhaps, it is hinted by her friends, something else. But Anna is snared by the secrets of Abel Tannatek, the secrets she slowly untangles during the winter of her senior year as the trust between them grows. Not least of Abel’s secrets is his parenting of his enchanting little sister, Micha, due to the disappearance of his irresponsible single mother, and his avoidance of authority figures who could place his sister with her brutal father.
But as Anna becomes involved in Abel’s sometimes tortuous daily life with Micha, she is also beguiled by what she thinks may be his biggest secret--his amazing gift as an inventive storyteller. Gradually she realizes that he is creating a fairy tale for Micha that includes everyone in their orbit, including Micha and Abel, their missing mother, a sympathetic teacher, Anna herself, and Micha’s abusive father. And then, as the winter deepens, as she falls deeply in love with Abel, the murders begin...and the murdered are characters in Abel’s fairy tale. His biggest secret may be his biggest lie.
R E V I E W
This is a moving and suspenseful novel that I could not put down. While reading a YA book with a German setting is unusual in itself (not too many YA books are translated from German into English for the American market, that’s for sure!), the story itself could take place in Anytown, USA, and the characters are believable. Watching the unfurling of Anna and Abel’s relationship, at times tender and at times incredibly painful (WARNING! This is NOT a book for the young) , what I truly loved was Abel’s fairy tale, which not only paralleled the often hellish life he was living with his sister, but that also served as a guide or compass for her. I highly recommend this book to those mature teens who like suspenseful realistic fiction.
I’d rate it “5.”
If you want another GREAT book from this author, try Tiger Moon, a romantic, suspenseful fairy tale based in India. Don’t let Tiger Moon’s cover fool you; it is not a book for the juvenile section of the library. It boasts a particularly lyrical translation by Althea Bell, who translates Cornelia Funke’s books. Enjoy!