Monday, June 19, 2017

The Girl Who Wouldn't Die by Randall Platt, 2017

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It’s 1939 in Poland, and Arab knows that standing up for anyone—especially her Jewish family—only paints a target on her back. So she plans to survive the Nazi occupation the way she always has: disguise herself as an Aryan boy, lead her street gang, and sell whatever she can steal.

But though Arab starts the war with the one goal of staying alive, others have different ideas for her. When a stranger asks for her help with a covert rescue mission, Arab has to make a choice. Trying to be a hero is a surefire way to get killed. But if she doesn’t do it, who will?

Hard-hitting and unforgettable, 
The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is a story about survival, the necessity of resistance, and the hope that can be found when the world is at its darkest.
(304 pages)

Oof, this book is gritty. And I don't necessarily say that because it has violence (though it definitely does!), I've read books that beat The Girl Who Wouldn't Die when it comes to straight up bloodshed. No, it's super gritty because it's so dang dark. Arab is a street rat in Warsaw, Poland during the German bombings and then the occupation, eking out a living for herself and a band of children made up mostly of war orphans. As we all know, horrible things happened in Poland during WWII–especially to the Jews. Every turn of the page seems to offer some new twist in Arab's story, and it's usually a bad one.

To be honest, I really couldn't get a feel for Arab's character. She was this really cutthroat, merciless street rat who . . . came from a wealthy Jewish family and loved children? What? I still don't really understand why she felt forced into a life of crime on the streets while her family was literally down the street–oh, wait, unless she was saving her neck by distancing herself from Judaism. I suppose that makes sense. But her father literally bought a gravestone and pretended to bury Arab just because she got caught robbing a jewelry store. I can understand him being really upset about her crimes, of course, but completely abandoning his daughter? Why? I just can't comprehend it.

Honestly, though, that's the main flaw in the story for me: I can't understand Arab or her family. Other than that, The Girl Who Wouldn't Die was a very gripping and intense read that was gritty and dark but also managed to focus on the selflessness of a few individuals focused on salvaging all the good they could from a bad situation. It's a little more vulgar than I would like in some parts, especially when it comes to language (the f-word is used sporadically). Because Arab disguises herself as a boy, she's accused of being lesbian a few times. There are also many deaths throughout the book, some described in a passing manner and others in gruesome detail.

I don't usually like books that have bad language or detailed violence in them, but I occasionally make an exception for a WWII book that uses them for the purpose of portraying such a terrible time in the past. This is the case with The Girl Who Wouldn't Die, so while I wouldn't say that I enjoyed the book, I will definitely say that it was a good book for me to read. If you've read it, let us know in the comments what you think!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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