Plot: This is the story, via witness statement, of 19-year-old Anna as she chronicles her life growing up in Nazi Germany, her familial relationships, and the hardships of being a "genetic undesirable" during WWII and the rise of Hitler. Ultimately, this is a powerful first-person account a girl, who, because of her cleft palate, is part of a historically underrepresented group: children of German birth who were brutalized and victimized by their own country.
Prose/Style: Kulikowski's story has promise, but becomes bogged down by excessive family history that reads more like a textbook than historical fiction and does not add context. Her prose is most effective as she explores Anna's emotions and conflict as she, like many Germans, struggle to reconcile their daily lives and hardships with a government that thrives on terror, intimidation, and cruelty.
Originality: While Anna's account is an alternate look into Nazi cruelty against German citizens (in this case, children deemed "undesirables"), it ultimately loses focus and diverges at times into a more generalized historical account of Nazi Germany--albeit through the lens of this particular young woman--which has been well-documented and explored in both fiction and non-fiction. The parallels between the Diary of Anne Frank, though perhaps unintentional, make the story seem even less fraught--and less relevant and poignant.
Character Development/Execution: Anna's firsthand accounts are the highlight of the book--especially as she explores her conflicting feelings about Hitler and Nazi Germany, and, like many other Germans, tries to build a new life after the war. She is a well-developed, thoughtful, mature character and first-person narrator.
Date Submitted: May 28, 2021